His phone was ringing.
Jason reached out blindly in the direction of the bedside table, smacking his hand against the side before finding the phone. He kept his eyes firmly closed as he brought it to his ear. "What?"
"I need your assistance," Damian said, voice low and tense.
"No," Jason replied, and hung up.
Predictably it was ringing again within the next second. This time he didn't let Damian get his first word out before hanging up.
At the third call he opened his eyes and squinted at the time before answering. "Damian, it's nine. Stop bothering me."
"I can't ask anyone else," Damian hissed. "You're the only person who can help."
"What, you need to cover up a murder or something?" Jason sat up, pinching the bridge of his nose. He could practically feel the headache already. "Why can't you ask Dick?"
There was exactly zero chance that Damian had chosen Jason over his favorite brother unless he really had to.
"He is in New York with the Titans," Damian said. Jason could hear someone talking in the background across the call. "Even if he was home, Richard is not the most suited for this...situation."
"Huh." Jason pushed back his blankets and swung his legs over the side of the bed. "Who'd you kill?"
The sound Damian made in response could be best described as an angry cat on helium. His voice must have started to break because Jason had never heard him so shrill before. "Jason, this is not the time for your tasteless jokes!"
"I never joke about murder." Jason stood up, stretching and cracking his back, frowning as something occurred to him. "Wait, it's Wednesday. Shouldn't you be in school?"
"Don't tell Father," Damian said immediately. "I have already called myself in sick."
"Gosh, Damian, you're turning into such a little delinquent. You must be spending too much time with me." Jeans and his boots were easy to slip on while juggling the phone. The t-shirt took a little more maneuvering.
Damian grumbled indistinctly before clicking his tongue. The sound of it had Jason rolling his eyes on reflex. Such a pretentious little brat.
"I've seen your school records," Damian finally said, with a haughty little sniff. "You'd have never willingly missed a day of school in your life."
"'Willingly'," Jason echoed. He pulled his jacket on and patted the pockets to check for his keys. "Ain't that the truth. So, before I come running to the rescue—what exactly did you do?"
Damian took a very deep breath.
"I am lost for words."
"Well, good. At least I've accomplished something worthwhile with my day."
Jason shook his head and continued to stare. At his side Damian shifted uncomfortably every few seconds, his normal composure lost in the face of the...situation.
"'I can drive', he says." Jason strolled closer to the wreckage, kicking one of the wheels. The hubcap came loose and rolled away. The poor tree that marked the car's final resting place was nearly completely uprooted from the force of the impact.
"In my defense, I was not behind the wheel at the time of the accident." There was a pinched, hunted expression on his little brother's face. Jason cherished every minute it remained. He'd already taken several photos to commemorate the occasion. Damian had been too distracted to even shout at him about it.
"Damian, when they say 'Jesus, take the wheel' it's not meant literally."
"I know that!" Damian looked back to the car, one of Bruce's pretentious and expensive ones that Jason was actually having trouble identifying because of all the damage. "Someone was driving, but it wasn't me."
Jason hoped not, because the crash was truly impressive. The whole thing was nearly ripped in two, the roof looked like something had exploded out of it from the inside, and the front half was crushed so tightly it resembled a can of soda that had been stepped on. "How did this even happen? How are you still alive?"
"I abandoned the vehicle before we took the first hill."
At the back of the car Jason could just make out the little pronged Maserati symbol. He turned and frowned down at Damian, who was a little disheveled and bruised but otherwise looked fine. "You took it off-roading? It's not a flipping Jeep."
"It wasn't my idea," Damian grumbled.
"Right, the mysterious driver." Jason glanced around the site of the final resting place of Bruce's Maserati, the model of which Jason still couldn't identify because it looked like someone had taken a giant can-opener to it. "I assume from the lack of blood that they survived the crash?"
"He escaped through the roof."
Jason closed his eyes. There was only one of Damian's little friends that could manage that feat so easily. "Oh no, don't tell me."
A giggle came from somewhere above him. "Help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi. You're my only hope."
He opened his eyes and glared at the tiny Kryptonian menace hovering in the air. "Okay, first of all? You're a complete nerd for knowing that reference at seven—"
"I'm ten!" the little monster howled.
"—I don't care, don't interrupt me." Jason jumped, snagging the kid by the ankle and hauling him down so he could loom over him. "Second of all, your species is about to go back to being critically endangered. You could have killed my brother, you irresponsible little shit!"
The kid's eyes went wide and fearful.
"I made the correct decision," Damian said, arms crossed smugly in front of his chest.
"I thought you said he would help us!" It took two tries for Superkid to break his grip—and nearly his fingers—and then he ducked out of range, hovering upside down in the air.
"He will help us," Damian replied. "For a price. I consider your head a fair trade."
Superbrat gaped as if he had not expected this kind of betrayal. Jason couldn't fathom how he'd spent more than five minutes in Damian's company and not picked it up.
Jason flexed his fingers and grimaced. "I can't believe you let the spawn of Superman drive."
"A momentary lapse of judgement," Damian replied. He cleared his throat. "I plan to replace the car. I am aware that you are good with both mechanics and getting things past our father. I wish to use your talents combined with mine to ensure that both Father and Pennyworth remain unaware that this unfortunate accident occurred."
"You are not getting shit past Alfred," Jason said. "Rest in pieces, Damian. You're toast."
Damian swallowed and raised his chin. "The attempt must be made."
"I can help!" Monsterboy was spinning in the air, a wide grin stretched across his face.
Jason raised an eyebrow. "Damian, you need better friends."
"I'm aware." Damian looked up at him solemnly. "If you assist me with this, I will graciously never mention the toy you stole from me again."
Jason considered the offer. Damian bothered him about the toy nearly daily and had tried three times to break into his safe house and steal it back. He should have just handed the toy over so he could move on with his second life, but now it was a matter of pride. "Deal. Superbrat, get moving—you're doing the heavy lifting. I know a place we can dispose of the evidence."
The things he did for family.
"What exactly is your master plan, anyway?"
After the car was safely disposed of Jason had taken the kids to a diner for lunch. He declined paying for them and was glad for it, considering the amount of food that Superman Junior could put away.
Damian took a sip of his drink and then folded his hands on the table in front of him like he was conducting an important business meeting. "I'm going to have you purchase a replacement car—with cash—and ensure that it is an exact replica of the original. Then Kent will return it to the garage and no one needs to know about the incident."
Jason snorted. "You're going to just slip it right in the collection and hope the World's Greatest Detective won't notice it's a completely new car?"
"I was sure to pick a car he doesn't drive often," Damian said, grimacing. "It's not a perfect solution, as tampering with the security cameras is a risky proposition, but it will have to suffice. Pennyworth is out all day, so we shouldn't have too much trouble."
"You could do that." Jason tapped his fingers against the tabletop and wondered if he wanted to even bother offering the alternative. On one hand, it was Damian. On the other, he could hold this over him for months. "Or..."
"Or?" Damian frowned.
"We could run away and hide in the Fortress of Solitude," Super Snot suggested cheerfully, like the arctic was such a fun place to hang out.
"No," Jason and Damian said together.
The Superbrat rolled his eyes and turned his attention back to his food.
"Or?" Damian prompted again, picking up his soda and fiddling with the glass.
"Or I could make a call." Jason pulled his phone out of his pocket and put it down on the table.
Damian stared at the phone. "To?"
"There's one catch," Jason explained. "You have to agree to my plan before I tell you."
Jason shrugged. "Well, your plan is never going to work."
"And yours will?" Damian asked.
Superkid looked between them, chewing on fries.
"Name a bet," Jason replied, "and I'll accept."
"If it doesn't work, you have to change your costume," Damian said. "To Richard's old Nightwing costume."
Damian smirked. "Yes. Permanently."
"Sure, done." Jason matched his grin with one of his own. "If I win I get an unspecified favor from you. You can just stay up at night and wonder what that'll be."
"Fine," Damian agreed. "But you will sign the contract in blood."
Jason rolled his eyes. "Sure, because that definitely makes it legally binding."
"You guys are weird," Superkid observed, kicking his legs. He actually acted his age, which was a little weird put next to Damian's entire self.
Damian pulled a notepad and knife out of his jacket pockets. He handed the knife to Jason and started writing in the notebook. "I'm not agreeing until your signature is on this page."
Superkid's eyes bounced between them as they completed the contract and signed it in blood. "What happens if you break it?"
"A demon comes and takes our souls," Jason replied.
"Nightwing is informed and deals with the guilty party," Damian corrected, giving Jason the kind of mildly exasperated look that Talia used to when he was being obnoxious.
"Like I said, a demon comes and takes our souls." Jason leaned back in his seat and grinned at Damian. "So, contract is all signed and bloodied as per your request. No chance of backing out now."
Damian nodded stiffly. "I will likely regret this, but it is now a matter of honor. Make your call."
Easiest bet Jason had ever made. He pulled his phone out and dialed the number out, just to watch Damian's expression slowly creep from smug superiority to tense and apprehensive. He held the phone to his ear and waited.
There was a click as it was picked up at the other end. "Jason?"
The look of absolute shock and betrayal made everything worth it. Damian made an aborted move to leap for the phone before remembering their deal. His mouth fell open and for a minute Jason honestly thought he might stop breathing.
"Is something wrong?" Bruce's voice was clear but drowned out a bit by voices in the background. He'd probably taken the call in the middle of a meeting.
"What, something has to be wrong for me to call you?" Jason wished he could take the opportunity to ask Damian if he wanted a paper bag to breathe into. The boy was slowly composing himself and had the air of one who was about to go before a firing squad. The Superbrat helpfully patted him a few times on the back.
"My opinion might be different if you ever called me for social reasons, son."
Oh boy, today he was son. Jason tried not to bite out something scathing. Some days he could live with it. Others he still just wanted to punch Bruce in the face.
They were getting there. Glacially.
He pushed those thoughts aside and focused on the reason for the call. "Okay, so maybe there is something wrong."
"What happened?" The voices in the background disappeared. Bruce had probably left the room.
"I borrowed one of your cars. I needed it for a job."
Damian had been reaching for his drink and fumbled the glass and nearly dropped it.
"Alright." He could practically hear Bruce's mind whirring away. "You know I don't mind if you borrow a car, Jay."
First he'd heard of it, but okay.
"Yeah, sure, but that's not actually why I called." Jason paused and took a sip of his own drink for maximum dramatic impact. "I parked it in my territory and it got boosted. It's probably in a chop shop by now. Sorry about that."
The kids were both staring at him. Jason chose to think that their expressions were amazed and impressed by his sheer audacity.
"It's okay, Jay. It's just a car." There was a pause and some mutterings on the other end of the line and then Bruce cleared his throat. "Look, I'm just glad you called and told me. Don't worry about the car."
There was no guilt clawing at Jason's gut, it was just indigestion. He was going to have to avoid the manor for a month because Bruce was definitely going to tell Alfred about this and one look at the butler's face and Jason would crumble and confess all his sins.
"Yeah, okay. I gotta go, old man." He hung up the phone and slipped it back in his pocket, turning his attention to Damian and the other one. "And that was me winning."
"For now," Damian replied, but despite his words his eyes were still a little wider than his normal smug expression. "That story is not going to hold up under scrutiny."
"He's not going to scrutinize it. He has no reason to." Jason shrugged his shoulders. The mild guilt was ebbing away and leaving only satisfaction. "I already 'admitted' to everything. He probably won't even look for the car."
"But if he does?"
Jason scoffed. "That car's own mother wouldn't recognize the wreck you two left it in."
"I still think he's going to find out." Damian crossed his arms over his chest and raised his chin.
Jason grinned. "Want to bet on it?"
Superkid grinned and nudged Damian in the side encouragingly. "Do it, Damian."
"Fine." Damian's lips quirked in a small smirk. "You're on."