Jason sighed, his breath billowing out in front of him. The crisp, biting air assaulted the teen with a vengeance. The leather jacket wrapped around him didn't help anything at all, and if it did... Well, Jason couldn't tell. Standing under a street lamp probably wasn't helping any, but he needed all the fucking money he could get. Jason was saving up for that damned camera he'd seen Tim eye over the passed few months.
So Jason was just working a little earlier, and a little longer each day. Working at the diner and his... Other, job, was turning out pretty good for him lately. They'd been able to pay the water bill on time this month, and had a little extra cash to spend on eating at one of the nicer places in Crime Alley.
Hmm. Maybe if he had some extra cash left to spare after he bought Timmy that camera, Jason wouldn't have to lie to his baby brother about his eating habits. So what if Jason hardly ate lately? His brother was more important, and damn it they needed the money for other essentials. You know; things like cheap groceries, soap for the cold showers they take, blankets for the cold Gotham nights (and nights in general)... That kind of shit.
But that was a simple maybe.
A deep blue, beaten up, '94 Supra pulled up in front of Jason. Sweet. It'd be his second job of the day and it was what...
Jason glanced at the clock outside of the store (Mick's Picks. A drug store that sells cheap. Nice guy works on Tuesday nights - let's Tim steal and turns a blind eye to it - and they never get trouble there. Dude never asks for their names, so Jason and Tim never ask his) across the street. Huh. It was 10:42 in the morning.
The window rolled down and Jason smirked in a suggestive manner before he bent down to see inside the car. A man. Interesting. The guy had a small goatee, was white, had deep brown eyes flecked with hazel, and had naturally blond-ish hair. His jawline wasn't as sharp as Jason's own, and the same could be said for all angles of the dude's face but hey. He was paying so Jason wasn't complaining.
"And how, dare I ask, can I help you?" Jason's voice was low. Husky, yet smooth at the same time, and he spoke with a drawl at the end.
Brown Eyes looked Jason up and down slowly, as if sizing up his prey. It always unsettled Jason whenever clients did that, but he had to fuckin' deal for Tim's sake. The dark gaze took in Jason's tight, form-fitting dark crimson T-shirt, the jeans that hung low on his waist, revealing the 'V' shape underneath his abs (yes, maybe that's why he was cold but it worked so.. it was a necessary sacrifice), the two lip piercings on the bottom lip near the right corner of his mouth, and the leather jacket. You could just see the lean muscles hidden underneath the sleeves and Jason knew it. He also knew how much crazier it made the Johns and Janes (likewise with the stupid lip piercings) which was why Jason kept up a lean, wiry build as opposed to sheer rippling muscles.
Brown Eyes finally looked up at Jason's aquamarine green gaze. "I think you know, boy. Get in."
Moving around the front of the hood and stretching his arms over his head (just enough that the shirt lifted to give a teasing glance at rippling abs), Jason opened the passenger side door. Before entering, though, Jason spoke up. "Y'know this 's gon' cost ya."
Brown Eyes made an inpatient noise and waved his hand dismissively. "Yeah, yeah. I'll pay whatever number you spout off, boy, don't worry about that."
Satisfied, Jason entered the car. When the guy continued driving, Jason looked out the window. Scenery passed as quickly as it'd been there and Jason sighed. He prodded one of the rings in his lip with his tongue. It didn't hurt, per se, but it does get sore. Some Johns enjoy abusing Jason's lips, paying the piercings special attention. A small frown twitched at his mouth. Tim was going to put it together, one of these days. How they got so much money from a waiting job at a diner in Crime Alley.
The guy pulled to a stop. When Jason snapped out of his head, he noticed the shadowy alley Brown Eyes had parked in front of.
Oh, he thought, so that's the kind this one is. A small sigh slipped past his lips. This meant bruises and sore lips. This meant sore everything. Alley dudes tend to be rough. Unnecessarily rough.
When Brown Eyes got out of the car, Jason followed with hands stuffed into his pockets. He made sure to keep his eyes half-open, and head tilted down. His hair dangled and those aquamarine green eyes followed Brown Eyes into the alley. Trash littered the ground and graffiti painted the bricks on both sides. If one looked hard enough, you could tell this was a dead-ended alley through the darkness.
As soon as Brown Eyes thought they were in a dark enough spot, he shoved Jason against a wall. Jason knew he wasn't getting attacked; like he said, some of the Johns like being rough. He didn't look like much with the layers on, and Brown Eyes told him as much. Jason kept his head low as he shrugged off the jacket, allowing it to slip off his arms once he'd loosened it as much. The muscles it hadn't hidden very well we're now clearly visible, and Brown Eyes seemed to be eating up the sight.
What a creep.
Brown eyes suddenly stepped forward and brought Jason's lips against his own. Oh so this dude wanted control? If he paid, Jason would let him do whatever for the right price. Jason's lips worked against Brown Eyes' and he felt a tongue graze his bottom lip. Understanding what Brown Eyes was asking, Jason opened his mouth and promptly felt a tongue slide in. Brown Eyes gripped Jason's wrists hard and pinned them against the wall above Jason's head with one hand. The other hand gasped Jason's hip hard enough to leave bruises like the ones that would form on Jason's wrists. Eventually, Brown Eyes began worrying the cuffs in Jason's lips, prodding at them, sucking them, and even licking at the sore flesh around. Jason whimpered and mentally congratulated himself since that seemed to be what Brown Eyes had been trying to accomplish the entire time. Jason made it a point to whimper and moan whenever he felt it was the right time to do so, and afterwards was payed extremely generously.
Counting the bills in his hand, Jason grinned. Never mind the bruises blooming on his hips, wrists, abs, pecs, and neck. Never mind the sore lips. The pay was worth it.
Stuffing the bills in his pocket and shrugging the jacket on higher, Jason made his way back to the small run-down, apartment he and Tim lived in. Walking inside, Jason chuckled when he saw Tim slumped on their small table, with his head in his arms, snoring. Approaching silently, Jason got a good look at the work his little brother had been doing before he'd passed out. Huh. Was he doing their taxes?
"Tim. Timmy. Timmers. Timbo. Timber. Timbit. Tiny Tim. Tiiiimm. Wake up." Jason poked his brother repeatedly with each nickname. When Tim's only reaction was a tired whine and a swipe at Jason's hand, the oldest brother yanked the seat out from under the youngest.
Said little brother yelped, using the momentum to flip back onto his hands, doing a handspring and standing with his fists up, panting. When he realized his attacker was his older brother laughing his ass off against the wall, Tim huffed and relaxed. "Asshole," Tim accused. He grabbed his chair and put it back under the table. They'd picked up a few acrobatics here and there. It wasn't like it was that hard after a while.
Jason grinned at his little brother. "Glad to know you're always ready, Baby Bird. Never know when we gotta ditch." He continued smiling at Tim, pulling out the wad of cash Brown Eyes paid. "'N other matters, look who got paid."
Tim's eyes widened as he reached for the cash, carefully counting it once he had it in his hands. "Shit, Jay." He looked up. "The hell d'ya score this?"
The eldest shrugged. "Would'ya believe me if I said I found it?"
The youngest rolled his eyes. "'M not stupid, so, nah." Tim walked over to the wall, peeling off a loose tile. He grabbed the cash in the wall and added the money to their stash, replacing the tile afterwards.
Jason shrugged again. "Fixing up some old rich coot's car. Something about it being old?" He shook his head, pretending to have forgotten the 'interaction'. "Guy paid good, I fix'd the car, every one's happy." Tim didn't know what Jason did. He didn't know Jason sold himself for the additional money and food on the table. He didn't know that Jason sold himself for the bills to be paid. And if Jason could help it, Tim wouldn't know.
Tim shrugged. "Guess so." His eyes landed on Jason's bruising neck. "They try to mug you?"
Confused, Jason asked Tim what he meant. "The bruising on your neck, dumbass," Tim bit back. "What happened?"
"Oh." Shit. How was he supposed to answer that? Well Tim did give him an idea... "Yeah. Fuckin' brats tried to get at it." Again, Jason shrugged. "Don't matter. S'long as we got the money, it don't matter."
His little brother didn't seem to buy it completely, but he didn't ask. "Right."
Jason felt dirty. Dirty, and bruised. Brown Eyes sure knew how to make it hurt... "I'ma go take a shower. Try not to cook, yeah?"
Tim rolled his eyes and sat back down.
"Was doing the money managing, idiot. I ain't touching 'nother stove in my lifetime. Consider that lesson learned."
Tim was a fucking genius and he didn't try to hide it. For a twelve-year-old, this was abnormal. Twelve and handling money? But the brothers were smart like that. Jason and Tim shared their knowledge. Jason had a bit more street smarts, and Tim had a bit more cognitive smarts. Jason didn't care.
The eldest forced a laugh, heading straight for the bathroom. He needed to be clean. Now.
Standing in the mirror with nothing other than his boxers on, Jason stared at his reflection. Bruises littered his chest and back, a few blooming in his wrists and forearms. The most obvious ones were the ones on his neck and jaw, though. Jason sighed. It'd be another week or so until he can go back out. The Johns and Janes didn't appreciate a marred face.
Stepping into the cold shower, Jason slumped against a wall. He was tired. He was sore. He was hurt. The cool water felt good against his abused skin and Jason closed his eyes. Mmm. That felt good. The water slid down his body; dripped off his shaggy hair. Jason needed to cut it soon; the tips were beginning to curl again. Okay that water was getting pretty cold... Yeah he's clean now. Safe to exit the shower...
Jason turned off the water, stepping out of the shower and wrapping a towel around his waist.. But one thing went wrong there. Jason slipped and slammed his knee against the rough bathroom floor tiles. He'd been too slow to do anything other than throw his arms out to catch himself, but that resulted in a 'pop' and a shout of pain caused by the bolt of agony to shoot through his right wrist. His head slammed into the ground afterwards, rendering Jason unconscious.
Tim charged into the room, spotting his older brother on the ground with a pool of blood gathering around his head at an alarming rate. His wrist was at an awkward angle and his knee seemed to be extremely aggravated. Numerous bruises littered Jason's torso, and Tim could see at least one bite mark on Jason's chest. Tim froze, images of Catherine on the ground with a needle in her arm flashing through his head. Shaking the memories away, Tim kneeled next to his brother, and with shaking fingers, he grasped another towel and pressed it against Jason's head. Blood soon began to spread through the light grey towel and Tim refused to allow himself to panic.
Jason needed help the youngest couldn't provide, so Tim ran out of the apartment. Desperately, he began going up to strangers on the sidewalk, begging for help and getting ignored each time. Refusing to give up, Tim continued to do so until finally, someone walked up to him.
A dude about twenty-something (Tim was willing to bet twenty-one) with royal blue eyes and inky black hair walked over to Tim.
"Hey," he greeted. "Something wrong?"
Tim assessed the guy in front of him. He was so painfully obviously not from Crime Alley it was a wonder it didn't hurt. He had actual silver on his watch, there was no Eastern accent when he spoke, brand name clothes, and if that car over there was this guy's...
Regardless, he was asking and Jason needed help. Tim gave him his best puppy dog eyes - they always worked on Jason - and told him what had happened. The guy introduced himself as Dick, but Tim never gave his name (or Jason's) as he took Dick to his brother. For some reason, Dick seemed familiar but Tim couldn't put his finger on it, much to his frustration. But there wasn't anything he could do about it now, and Jason needed help, so Tim pushed that out of mind.
Arriving at the bathroom again, Tim kneeled next to Jason and looked up to Dick with pain-filled eyes.
"Help him," Tim begged. The blood had seeped through the towel and began coating Tim's fingers. Jason was still unconscious, though, and Tim was both glad and worried. Glad that Jason wasn't presently feeling any pain, but worried because he still wasn't awake yet.
Dick snapped out of his stupor and collected Jason in his arms.
"Follow me," is all he said before exiting the room and apartment. Tim hurried after him. Outside, the guy jogged across the street and oh crap that was Dick's car. Tim tried not to think about how Jason would be gushing over the car on other circumstances. Hell, Jason would probably try and jack the tires in other circumstances...
Dick put Jason in the backseat, telling Tim to get in and entering the driver's side of the car. Tim did get in the car, but he sat in the back with Jason's head in his lap. Dick said something about a clinic, but Tim wasn't listening anymore. He was staring at his brother's bloody and bruised face.
A tear slipped down Tim's cheek, dropping on Jason's and cutting a clear path down the blood that stained his face. Tim sniffed and wiped at his eyes with the back of his hands.
"Be okay," he whispered to his older brother. "I need you t' be okay." Another tear fell.
I'm cross-posting this so. I swear the rest of this fic is rated T, and nothing like the separated bit will show up anywhere here ever again. Seriously.
Chapter 2: Impression
Dick honestly had no idea what the hell he expected from today. Really, he'd been having a normal da-
Ohh. That explained it. He never had a normal day. By this point, Dick should have expected it.
His hands tightened around the steering wheel, fingers drumming against the leather surface. Dick glanced back to the two brothers in the backseat of his car. Both had dark black hair, and the same fair tan skin, but as far as he could tell, that's where the similarities ended. One of them was bigger; leaner, with more wiry muscles as opposed to the smaller one. The smaller one had a good build too, but he was so small. How old was the kid? Eight? Nine? The other one - the one who was unconscious - looked to be about sixteen, at oldest seventeen.
The smaller one hadn't given Dick a name for either of them, so he'd just call them names he decided they looked like. Hmm. The smaller one looked like a Colin, and the older looked like a... Lucas. Yeah. Colin and Lucas.
He decided to try them out, glancing into the rear-view mirror to look at the two periodically.
"Colin?" When the kid didn't look up, Dick sighed. The light turned green and he was forced to look back at the road (did all these people drive like drunken clowns?) and figure out how to gain the kid's attention.
"Hey kid. Yo, Baby Blues."
The kid's head snapped up and he fixed Dick with wide pale blue eyes.
"What'dya just call me?"
His voice was barely above a whisper, and if it wasn't for Bruce's Bat-training, Dick doubted he'd have heard it.
Dick flashed the kid a grin.
"Baby Blues" He tacked on a quick dismissal of the nickname at the end not too long after. "I mean, if you don't mind it anyways. I don't need to call you Baby Blues, I just think it's a nice nickname. I mean I'm sure you've got a nickname already so it's not like that really matters, shit I'm rambling again I should stop talking." And with that, he did. Dick's jaw snapped shut and he payed rapt attention to the road (no seriously. He knew that Crime Alley was full of druggies, but seriously? This was fucking ridiculous!) like his life suddenly depended on it. (Which it did.)
"I was about'a tell you t'shut up, but you shutting yourself up s'better."
Since he wasn't looking in the rear-view mirror, he couldn't see the kid's fa-"Look at me."
Dick glanced into the mirror to see the odd, suspicious look the kid was giving him.
"You can call us whatever the hell you want to. Just... No street trash."
Dick was confused for a second and felt his brow crease. What did the kid mean, "no street trash"? Wha-
Ohhh. He tought Dick would call them names.
"Don't worry about it, Baby Blues," he reassured. "I'll stick to the nickname... Unless you'll tell me your names..?"
It was wishful thinking, leave him alone.
The kid snorted. "I'll tell ya our names f'my brother gives the okay."
Baby Blues went silent for a while. Then, just when Dick was about to say something to fill the silence (because he couldn't stand silence), Colin spoke. "Where're you taking us?"
Dick sighed. He'd told the kid that right when they'd entered the car.
"Leslie Thompkins' free clinic," he answered. "Leslie's an old friend of mine." And Batman's, but Dick wasn't about to say something potentially incriminating.
Startled, the car swerved for a second when Dick jolted. Correcting the car, (thank God no one hit them) Dick glanced back into the mirror.
Colin glared right back, repeating.
Confused, Dick blinked.
"Why not?" He was still driving for the clinic, whether Colin liked it or not. Lucas was seriously hurt, and Dick was pretty sure the two didn't have money enough to pay for a hospital.
The next ten minutes were spent reassuring the kid Leslie wasn't going to shove them into any foster care or adoption center... Which Dick had no idea how true it was, but if it got Lucas - slash whatever-his-name-was - some medical attention, Dick would tell him so.
Arriving outside of Leslie's, Dick parked the car and dashed to the back of the car. He opened the door, gently taking Lucas from Colin and rushing inside the clinic.
"Leslie!" he shouted. Frantically, Dick began asking anyone he could for Leslie's location. Finally, the doctor appeared with several nurses and a gurney.
She hardly seemed surprised upon seeing the vigilante, but seemed shocked at the sight of the too-thin, bleeding teen in his arms. Not to mention the silent, also too-thin, and short boy beside him. Quickly she made her way to the trio. "What happened?"
The small boy shifted on his feet uncertainly.
"J - m'older brother slipped when he got out of the shower. I... When I walked in, he was bleeding on the floor. S'all I know."
That, Dick thought to himself, explains the towel, Leslie so don't ask me why I'm carrying a half-naked teenager.
To his relief, Dick was instructed to set Lucas down on a gurney. After which he was quickly rushed into a vacant room. Dick and Colin followed until the door, where an exceptionally rude nurse slammed the door on their faces with a "I don't care how rich and famous you are, the doctor needs room to work in" for an explanation. He stood there stunned before leaning against the wall opposite to the door. What? He could take a few hits - verbal or physical.
Thinking back, Dick supposed the older boy's name must've started with a J, since Colin let that much slip. The question was, what name was it? Jasper, Justin, Jason, Jacob, John, Jim, Jack, Jerry, Jordan, James, Jackson...
See Dick's dilemma?
Regardless, Dick had to tell Bruce about this situation. Well how was he supposed to leave Colin alone..?
When the kid didn't respond, Dick nearly face-palmed. He'd forgotten that Colin wasn't this kid's name.
"Uh, Baby Blues." Okay. Okay... Now he had the kid's attention. "I gotta make a call -" At the kid's horrified and look of utter betrayal, he backpedaled. "Wait, wait! I have to call Bru - my... Dad. Tell him that I'll be late to the meeting I was supposed to show up to."
Colin didn't look any less wary, though the betrayed and hurt look had melted back into it's previous anxiousness. Okay... Dick could work with anxious...
He was pretty sure.
"O-okay. Just hurry up, yeah? Don't want any'a these Docs and nurses thinking they doing a 'greater good' by callin' Child Services..." A scowl twisted Colin's facial features and Dick did not like the look on the kid.
"Don't worry, I've got it covered. Just stay here, okay? I'll be back in like, what, ten minutes? Five? Point is, I won't be long." If, he thought to himself, Bruce doesn't somehow screw this up...
Stepping outside, Dick pulled out his phone and dialed Bruce, patiently waiting as the phone rang.
(Maybe he had the guy on speed-dial... What? They might not have currently been agreeing on some things, but Dick still loveed the emotionally constipated mug)
It was pretty chilly outside (when wasn't it?) and Dick was glad for his jacket. Lazily, his eyes scanned the streets before him, taking in everything. Habitually he made note of every possible angle he could take to the roofs by, alleys he could switch personas, and which places drug dealers might be hiding.
The street itself was rather bare, save a few beat-up cars here and there. Huh. Only a handful and they were so horrible at driving
On the third ring, a voice sounded on the other line. "Hello?"
"Hey Bruce!" Dick grinned. Okay, what. He's in a good mood, alright? Colin might be in a bad mood, but he made Dick's heart get fuzzy and he made the older male smile. Dick couldn't help but be in a good mood...
"Dick. How are you?"
Oh so Bruce cared? Since when? Huh... Maybe Dick wasn't giving the guy credit enough... "I'm actually doing pretty good Bruce. I called because I might be late to that W.E. meeting."
"...May I ask why?" Okay who the hell was this and what had they done with Bruce Wayne.
Dick blinked a few times, staring at the phone. At the worried call of his name, Dick blinked twice more before replying. "Uh... See I was picking something up from Crime Alley and this kid was running up to people like... Totally freaked, so I go up to him and ask the kid what's wrong. He tells me his big brother slipped getting out of the shower and that he's bleeding out on their bathroom floor. So, y'know, me being me, I went and checked. Sure enough, there's a kid bleeding out on bathroom floors. And Bruce," Dick paused hesitantly.
He swallowed, licking his lips. "There... There weren't any adults or parental figures to be seen. And, Bruce, I don't know what I would have done if there had been one... He just looked so horrible. Bruises, like, colored his skin. And God, Bruce, he was so thin. They both are."
The other end went silent for a few. "...Where did you take them?"
"Brought them to Leslie's. The older one is in... Surgery, I think?" Dick sighed, running his free hand through his hair. "Bruce... I can't... I just... I can't send them back to their apartment. It's a wonder anything worked there. I mean, don't get me wrong it was neat and all, but it was so run down..." Dick shook his head, trailing off. He watched the cars drive by lazily.
"Call Child Services."
...Did he really just say that? Like Dick hadn't thought of that already?
Dick sighed again, pinching the bridge of his nose. "Not an option. The kid says if I call Child Services, he's gonna bolt. And, honestly? I believe him Bruce. I don't doubt that when the older one wakes up and sees his little brother's gone, he'll hightail out of the hospital faster than Barry can say 'I'll be back in a flash'."
Bruce's end went silent, and Dick checked to make sure he hadn't hung up. Okay... Good. He hadn't. "I'll be there soon."
Wait.. What. "No, no! Bruce, what the hell do you think's going to happen when the other people on the street get word that I alone spoke and interacted with those two? Bruce, that's already putting target enough on their backs."
"Well then what do you want me to do? Do you know their names?"
"...No." He honestly didn't know what he wanted Bruce to do... He just knew he couldn't leave those kids alone. But, shit, what else could he do? He couldn't just take them to the Manor, he couldn't take them home, and he wouldn't call Child Services..
"Then there's really nothing I can do, Dick." And he knew it. Dick knew there wasn't anything Bruce could do, but he just... There had to be something they could do...
But really, aside from not calling Child Services... What could they do? Dick had maybe a hundred and ten dollars on him... Could he give it to the kid? Colin? They're young enough not to be able to buy any alcohol, even in a place as bad as Crime Alley.
Yeah. Donating some money sounded good.
"It's okay Bruce. I knew there wasn't much you could do, but... I dunno. I guess I was hoping the universe would pity those two." He shrugged even though Bruce couldn't see him. "Guess not."
"Bye, Dick. I'll see you later at dinner?"
Dick smiled. "Yeah. I'll be there." An idea struck and Dick's smile grew. "Cya later, Bruce."
He hung up and walked back to where Colin still stood chewing his lip. The kid glanced at him before returning his gaze to the door behind which Leslie was working on his brother. "Seven minutes and forty-two seconds," the kid muttered. "Not five minutes."
Dick blinked at him in shock. Had he been clocking Dick the whole time? "Well," he replied after a minute. "I did say 'like' in my defense."
The kid rolled his eyes. "Whatever."
Dick smiled. The kid didn't know it, but he and his brother just found themselves a new guardian in the night. Nightwing would be patrolling Crime Alley a tad more often...
Bruce and the others be damned if they try to stop him.
Chapter 3: Consant
Tim stared at his beat-up, too big shoes. The sneakers were loyal ones, and Tim happened to like them, despite Jason's warning not to get attached to just about anything they owned. He'd said it was because people were true jackasses when they wanted to be - especially adults and some of the older mean kids.
But he couldn't help it.
He'd gotten the shoes the first time he'd gone with Jason to steal from the mall maybe a year ago. They'd been lucky that day. Jason stole some clothes for the two, and Tim was getting the food when the shoes caught his eye. Jason happened to notice, and took a huge risk snagging the dark red, black, and gold shoes. Jason ran out of the mall sporting a few new bruises, and Tim sprinted after him without a single scratch. Both, had their arms full of goodies (they'd even snagged some candy) and were on could nine arriving at their apartment.
"Happy Birthday, Babybird."
That had been what Jason said to Tim with a toothy grin on his face. He then ruffled Tim's hair and gave him a one-armed hug. "Treat 'em good, yeah? Don't want 'em goin' to shit too soon."
Now Tim's eyes watered as he stared at the footwear. By now they were more dark, ashy grey, and the laces were more beat up than Willis coming back home from a failed job. They were caked with dirt and the grime of the Alley, but Tim still liked them all the same. Jason's shoes... They hardly ever lasted, what with the beating they took when Jason escapes from store-owners and cops (not to mention gangbangers and thugs). The colors were a bit faded, but again, Tim didn't mind. They were a birthday present from Jason, so the twelve-year-old cherished the shoes. They stood out like a broken nose against the pale white floor of the room Tim was in. The whole room was a sort of light, pale green. It seemed like any stereotypical hospital room; two plush green chairs, a desk over in that corner to the left, the bed in the middle of the room with monitors around it (none of which were on), pale florescent lighting, a door without a window, an actual window (why the hell was there a widow? Who would want to see Crime Alley? Well at least it was a barred window...), and some magazines (none of which interested Tim. So what if Bruce Wayne just bought a new watch? Tim didn't care about that rich prick).
He wouldn't look up again. Leslie had finished working on Jason not too long ago and said he had a major concussion, soft tissue injury in his knee, and a badly sprained wrist. Jason would be fine, but Leslie said he would need to stay off his leg and needed to be supervised when taking a shower (to make sure he didn't make his injuries worse). Tim's heart had dropped when she'd said that, because that meant Jason couldn't go to work, and Jason wouldn't be happy. As a matter-of-fact, Tim was pretty sure Jason would throw a fit and end up trying to go to work anyways.
Looking at Jason... Hurt. Tim couldn't stand to see his big brother so... So weakened. Looking so small.
No. Tim couldn't think about that.
Tim frowned, turning his eyes to the plain ceiling and leaning back heavily on the chair with a frustrated huff. He'd need to find a way to make money for... How long had Leslie said? A month and a half? Two months? Tim sighed heavily, pinching the bridge of his nose before he casted Jason's bed a forlorn look. Jason liked to say Tim looked like an old man whenever he pinched his nose.
"Makes ya look like you've got the weight of the world on your shoulders, Babybird. I can't have that, 'cause that's my job. Got it?"
Tim could hear Jason's voice as sure as if he was actually talking. Which he wasn't.
He felt like screaming at Jason to quit being a drama queen already and wake up. But... That wouldn't... No. Tim wouldn't do that.
With a frustrated noise, Tim decided to start going over his options.
Hm. That nurse had said that guy Dick was rich and famous... But Tim didn't-
His jaw dropped and Tim's head snapped to look at the door where Dick had left to get some snacks.
Dick. As in... Dick Grayson? That guy Bruce Wayne adopted? Bruce Wayne. The richest bachelor in Gotham...
And Tim hadn't recognized his son!
That explained the wad of cash he'd gotten from the guy! It was a well-known fact about Richard "Dick" Grayson, that he was a kind-hearted guy. Very generous to the... Less than fortunate.
Tim wasn't sure whether to be flattered or offended.
A groan sounded from the bed and Tim's head spun with the sudden jerk it made to look at Jason.
His brother had his eyes screwed shut and slowly dragged his uninjured hand to his face.
"Tim?" he called softly.
"Jay!" Tim blurted. He couldn't help it, okay? Why don't you try keeping yourself controlled when your brother with a severe concussion wakes up, huh? Tim would like to see you keep a reign on yourself. "You're awake!"
A grunt was his response.
"Yeah?" Tim had, by this point, skittered off of the chair to stand next to Jason's bed, propping his chin up next to Jason's arm. The blood had been cleaned away, but there were bandages wrapping around Jason's head. Tim wondered if Jason would be glad to know none of his hair needed to be shaved or cut away - the gash had been near the back of his head, closer to his neck than his actual skull.
Tim blinked. Jason's words were slurring heavily, so it took him a bit to decipher the muddled sounds.
"Oh. Uh. About that..."
Jason moved his hand from his face to give Tim a skeptical look. As his brother took in his surroundings, Jason's eyes widened and sniped back to Tim, who was chewing his lower lip and twiddling his thumbs behind his back.
"Tim." - Hey Jason's voice sounded clearer - "Where. Are. We?"
Tim kept his eyes turned to the floor. Jason would yell at him. He just knew it.
"Leslie Thompkins' free clinic," he whispered. Jason heard though. Tim could tell from the sharp inhale he'd heard.
"We need to scram, Babybird. CPS might be here already." Jason began to squirm, but the pain killing drugs in his system slowed him down and made his eyelids heavy. But they needed out. Now.
Tim blinked. Jason hadn't yelled? Wait. Waiiit.
He sighed. He really needed to stop expecting Jason to end up adopting some of Willis' traits. Jason and Willis were not the same people.
Tim made a strained noise, and that's when Dick walked through the door with two chip bags in hand and three chocolate bars. When he saw Jason awake and moving, Dick smiled and looked over to Tim. Slowly, Dick's face became confused at the look on Tim's face.
"Uh. Hey there."
At the sound of Dick's voice, Jason stilled and shot him a death glare.
"Who're you?" The growl was hostile, and Tim realized Jason wouldn't recognize Dick since he'd been unconscious.
"Dick Grayson-Wayne," Tim answered, looking right at the guy accusingly. Maybe he was a little sore about not recognizing him. He'd take it out on Dick. "He's the guy who gave us a ride here, Jay."
Dick grinned back.
"Yep," he replied popping the 'p'. Tim huffed. What was with people and popping their p's today? "Funny thing - I still don't know your names."
Tim glanced at Jason, who narrowed is eyes at Dick. "What'cha want our names for?"
The oldest shrugged, walking over to sit down in the chair Tim had previously claimed.
"It's better than calling you the names I gave you in my head."
Jason's fists clenched and Tim sighed. Leave it to Jason to be the defensive one. "And what would they be?"
Dick blinked, then blushed and looked at his hands.
"Well... You," he pointed at Tim, "are Colin in my head, and you," the finger was now pointed at Jason, "are Lucas." Dick shrugged again. "I think you look like the names I gave you."
Tim and Jason stared at the guy with wide eyes.
Jason's hands unclenched and he threw his head back and laughed. Tim's mouth twisted into a grin and he snickered.
"Colin... And I'm Lucas. Y'hear that Babybird?"
"So we gonna give him our names?"
Jason shrugged, still laughing.
"Go 'head, Tiny Timmy."
The youngest pouted at the nickname.
"M'not Tiny," he sniffed. "You're just big, Jay."
Dick watched with what would seem to be amusement, and Tim knew he caught the names.
"Okay, so Jason and Tim right?"
Jason gave Dick a blank look and Tim followed his brother's lead, giving Dick a confused one.
"Where'dya get that from?"
The oldest in the room pouted - actually pouted - and Jason laughed again. Tim merely gave a shy smile.
"Just teasin', Dickie. Yeah my name's Jason. Now, we need t' get outta here. Lets go, Babybird."
Jason swung his uninjured leg off the side of the bed, being more careful with the other one. When he tried to stand, however, Jason hissed in pain and grasped the bed with white knuckles and gritted teeth.
"Jay?" Tim scrambled to his brother, steadying him as best he could.
Huh. Tim had forgotten to tell Jason about the bandages wrapped around his knee and the brace.
"M'fine, Timbers," Jason replied through gritted teeth. "Jus' forgot about the knee." Tim glanced at Jason's wrist. It didn't seem to be bothering him but just in case...
"S'your wrist okay?"
"Eh. Been better."
Dick cleared his throat.
Well... Tim had completely forgotten about the older male being there, and he wasn't ashamed to admit it, in his head. Jason would be less than pleased with that, though he wouldn't bring it up harshly. Jason was nothing like Willis. Tim was nothing like Willis. They would not behave like the monster that was their father.
Dick clasped his hands in front of him. "You two have any parents at home?"
Both Jason and Tim went stiff at the question. Tim cringed into Jason, turning his face to press it into Jason's side.
Jason was the one who gritted out a reply.
This answer was probably expected, which would be why Dick merely winced at Jason's tone. "Anyone to take care of you..?"
"I take care'a us just fine," Jason snapped. "I get food on the table and keep the water runnin'. S'good 'nough for us, so back the fuck off."
Dick raised his arms in surrender, looking genuinely worried.
"Okay, that's fine... But... You're not allowed to go to work for the next few weeks. Didn't Tim tell you?"
Tim glanced up at Jason to see a stricken look briefly flicker on his brother's face before it hardened again.
"I'll work somethin' out. We're leavin'."
And they did. The two shuffled as quickly as they could out the door and out the clinic; Tim made sure he had Jason's pain pills in his pocket as they exited.
Good. He did.
Tim wasn't excited for the future, but then again he hadn't ever really been. They'd find some way to survive.
They had to.
Chapter 4: Extortion
I have no idea how to write Two-Face, so there's your disclaimer.
It's gonna suck :D
One week later
Harvey Dent was a pretty... Odd guy, he'd admit. But there was one thing he liked: consistency. He loved when a job was pulled with wonderful consistency and preferred that more jobs succeeded rather than failed. There were simple consequences whenever the consistency was broken. Whoever was in charge of the job, died.
Now. He'd been having a rather good week - all the jobs were succeeding (Batman was busy doing something else. What, Harvey didn't care about) - and they were pulling in good money...Until today.
Somewhere in the Bowery, an old apartment building stood. Several alleys connected to meet and separate again, but the point was they led to the apartment building. In one of the alleys, an eleven-year-old girl rummaged through garbage, unaware of the older teens creeping up on her. In another alley, an old man lie curled into himself. The rags covering his body wouldn't serve to contain body heat very well. The old man would be dead by morning. In yet another alley, a man was being raped by both male and female genders. And in one of the final alleys, a little boy met another older one. That alley had a positive outcome - the boys swore to protect each other.
In the apartment building itself, a disgusting specimen of the common criminal was beaten bloody in a room dirtier than the guy's rap sheet. Rats skirted across his legs every now and then but Two-Face merely scorned the rodents. On the ground beneath his feet, Willis Todd lay curled up in a fetal position. Willis' blood leaked onto the ground, staining the news papers scattered on it a crimson so dark it looked black in the dim yellowish lighting. Willis already suffered from a concussion, a broken arm, a split lip, and a gunshot wound in his foot.
Harvey didn't care. Todd had been the whole reason their heist failed - he'd tripped the alarm "accidentally". The money scored would have been split with the Joker, since he caused the distraction that kept Batman busy during their robbery. Now, Two-Face was in Joker's debt, and Joker wanted payment in blood or weapons. Seeing that Harvey didn't deal in arms much, he'd have to pay the clown in the first form.
"Heads you find me someone to turn to the Joker before I kill you, tails you're the one I hand to the Joker."
Harvey frowned down at Willis deeper, flipping the coin. With the coin in the air, Willis began to whimper further, trying to crawl away. The attempts were blocked when Harvey caught the coin and motioned to one of the other goons of his to stop the dirt bag inching away.
Opening his palm to reveal the side the coin landed on, Harvey was disappointed to find that it landed on heads. Willis had a shot, it appeared.
Disdain dripping from his voice, Harvey said, "Heads. Find me someone to give Joker."
As an after-thought, he added: "Actually, for you, find me two someones. By tomorrow morning."
It should have been an impossible order to fill, but Willis immediately began to speak into the dirty rag fished from the garbage heaps spilled on the floor of one of the nearby alleys. Frowning again, Two-Face motioned for the gag to be removed. Who could Willis possibly have for Harvey to turn over already?
A truly stupid question. Harvey had specifically said exactly that. Two someones.
"Yes, Todd," he repeated in a growl. "Two someones. By tomorrow. Morning."
Just as Two-Face made to leave, Willis spoke. Again.
"I have them for you!" He cried. "A-a-and they're young! They sh-should last Joker a-awhile!"
Two-Face sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose before turning to face the trash at his feet.
"Names," he growled.
Stammering - again - Willis rattled off two names and an apartment complex and room number.
"T-they should be there!"
Dent drew his foot back and delivered a solid kick to Willis' ribs. A muffled 'crack' was heard and Willis cried out in pain.
"You," Two-Face snarled, "disgust me, Todd." Spiting at the scumbag, Harvey spoke again. "But, Joker still needs to be paid and I said two people. You gave me two people. Technically, you've solved the problem only to run into another."
Harvey sneered down at him.
"Falcone is looking for a few new hands, and I've just realized I have too many lackeys. You're out, Todd. Scram before I have them kill you." When the man didn't move, Harvey kicked him again and screamed, "Now!"
Quickly, Willis made his way from the apartment building. Hopefully, Harvey thought to himself, the bastard dies. Bleeds out or something.
With a sigh, Harvey ordered his men to fetch the two boys Willis had named.
"Once you've got them, take them to Amusement Mile. Joker should be there. Just... Leave me out of this one." So disgusted was he, Harvey couldn't even stand to think about Willis Todd. "And Todd. I want him dead by daybreak." When nobody moved, Two-Face snapped, "Get on it! Move your asses!"
The man who sold out his sons to the Joker to save his ground-groveling hide.
Chapter 5: Privation
Privation: noun. a state in which things that are essential for human well-being such as food and warmth are scarce or lacking
Jason was maybe... 87% sure that he'd found another way to make money. A day or two ago, he'd gone with Tim over to the diner he worked at: Newman's Place. It was a nice little place - one of the few left in this God-forsaken city, especially Crime Alley - with a long rectangular red awning, large spotless glass windows (bullet-proof and reinforced, of course), walls painted a frosty grey color, dark grey double doors, and a few black tables fenced in by a red picket fence. It made the two "establishments" it was between look like the trash they were. Both had worn and faded paint, cracked glass, faded and torn awnings...
Not to mention the prostitution and drug dealings that go on in the damn places. (Needless to say, Jason kept Tim far, far away from those two... Cesspits) The staff were relatively decent in Newman's Place, and the owner was a nice guy, so when Jason explained his injury, Mr. Dawns - the owner - let him take two weeks off... Here's the kicker... With pay. Two weeks! Doing nothing! Paid!
So there was about... $125 - $170 the bothers wouldn't have to worry about... Not to mention, the three hundred dollars that had somehow appeared hidden under the coffee maker yesterday.
He snorted, remembering the way Tim had stared at the money in his hand like it had insulted their mom.
Right now Jason was in the living room, sitting in the beat-up, dark green, ripped and stained couch. Staring at the stains on the couch, Jason couldn't help but wrinkle his nose in disgust. Those, were bloodstains. Like they'd be anything else.
...oh wait. That one there, on the armrest, was beer. And the one just a little lower that the first was beer too. Huh.
It's not like Jason didn't remember Willis getting drunk - no he'd have to be dead to forget (maybe not even then) the bottles broken on his head and back - it's just that he hadn't noticed the beer stains on the couch before. It's always just been blood, blood, blood. Sometimes, that's just what Jason thought his life was, his purpose in life - to simply bleed to death.
What a fucked-up way to die.
A loud 'bang' sounded, and Jason heard the sounds of rhythmic thuds against the wall soon accompany the initial noise. His nose wrinkled in disgust. Sometimes, not having soundproof walls sucked absolute ass.
Standing up, Jason winced at the pain that shot up his knee and caused a sharp bolt of pain to strike his chest. With a grunt he made his way to the door. Jason didn't need to grab his red sweater - he was already wearing it. Not having insulation or a functioning heater also sucked ass. It was always cold in Gotham. It being early January didn't help the icy cold any so Jason and Tim were always wearing their thin sweaters and two t-shirts on underneath (Jason had the leather jacket on over the sweater, though, per Tim's insistence). Socks were always on their feet and the torn gloves they owned were now always on their hands.
Jason shook his head, clearing it. Walking outside, he sighed. Tim was out, looking for some way he could help with their money issue despite Jason's firm insistence that he be the one responsible for getting the money. Jason hadn't thought Tim would care, and sure enough, he'd nearly had a heart attack when Tim was nowhere to be found in the morning. The little shit had left him a God damn note in the dining room/kitchen. Scrawled on the paper was 'I know you think you can carry the world on your shoulders, but let's face it Jay. You really can't on that bum leg of yours, so I went to Hoover's Café to see if I can get a job.' At that point, Jason wanted to strangle his little brother in frustration, then immediately regretted even having the idea - the fantasy - of his hands being the cause of his baby brother's demise.
Just thinking of it made him shudder.
Pulling a cigarette from his pocket, Jason fished for a lighter in his pockets. Once the cigarette was lit, Jason brought the 'cancer stick' to his lips, resting against the cold railing on his left arm, taking a long drag from the cigarette. The warmth it produced was welcome and the de-stressing was also appreciated. Oh, and hey, at least he doesn't need to listen to Dwight and Glitter (one of the working girls he knew) have a rough fuck. No thank-you. He's had enough of those kinds of trauma a tad too much in his life.
Jason's eyes wandered down to the street below. He chuckled when he realized how small people looked even from his spot on the second floor of his apartment building. Like damn ants on the street. Huh. Weird.
His aquamarine green eyes lazily flicked from person to person; from grey car to blue car; from building to building. The girls were over on the corner of Jefferson's and Seventh, that drug dealer named Leif over next to Skrill's Drills (the only way Jason knew the fucker was because he was Catherine's dealer, once-upon-a-time) was hidden in the shadows of the alley, Old man Garrett from the apartment room to Jason's left was walking to Bart's SuperMart, with... Was that Timmy?
Jason snorted at the sight, wincing at the headache that began to form. Of course Timmy went to visit Garrett. The boys had a special relationship with the old man. On bad days, Jason and Tim would go next door and eat cookies and chocolate bars, listening as the old man told tales of his youth. Sometimes Timmy still went. Jason goes with Tim whenever he has the time to, but that's not a very frequent thing. Jason worked hard for the little he and Tim had, but he wouldn't have it any other way. Just Jason and Tim. That's all he needed. His brother. But his baby brother needed water to bathe in, soap to bathe with, clothes to wear, food to eat, and a roof under which he could sleep.
So Jason gets his Babybird what he needs as best to his ability. He just hoped Tim was okay with what Jason could give.
But sometimes it was hard - hard trying to be a good big brother, hard trying to be a father figure for Tim, hard trying to be as gentle as his mother was for Tim. It's...
It was hard trying to be all those things for Tim. Not to mention being a protector for the kid - a best friend.
Jason sighed, taking another drag from his cigarette before doing so. The smoke billowed out in his face and Jason slid his eyes shut and let his head hang.
It's... Just for a little bit. Yep. He just needed to think (some more) for a bit... Or, well, he needed to not think for a bit. Yeah. That sounded better.
Jason opened his eyes, took one last drag of his cigarette, and stomped the thing out after dropping it on the ground. Turning, he limped back into the apartment, and headed for his room. Once he reached the room (thank God he couldn't hear Dwight and Glitter), Jason plopped down on the mattress he shared with Tim, allowing his eyes to slide shut. Jason knew he didn't have to worry about Tim since he was with Old man Garrett who always had a pistol on his person somewhere and was practically a grandfather to the boys he ate cookies with. (The cookies were great, but Jason and Tim were pretty sure they could be better, not that they were complaining).
It was just a quick nap; he'd be up by the time Tim was back from Garrett's.
Waking up to voices in your tiny kitchen, Jason decided, was freaky as fuck. Especially when it was your baby brother's voice and one that you knew but couldn't pin down.
Jolting to his feet - ow. Bad idea. Baad idea. - Jason staggered to the door to the room and stumbled down the hall, toward the kitchen with a knife in-hand.
I swear to God, Jason thought to himself, if there's anyone threatening Tim... Lord help them.
Stepping around the corner that lead to the kitchen, Jason blinked at the sight that met him.
Tim was sitting at the coffee table, typing away at the laptop Jason had gotten (stolen) for him two years ago with a box next to him. That, Jason could expect (except for the box. The hell was in that?). He was fine with that scene.
It was Dick Grayson in a blue button-up - sleeves rolled up hastily - and jeans - worn - sitting on their counter top that threw Jason for a loop. What was the rich boy doing here?
Tim huffed in frustration. "No, see, I'm almost in, it's just this code is taking too long for me to crack."
"Tim, it's only been two minutes. It would take me at least ten to crack into Wayne Enterprises, and I've been at this longer that you have."
Tim's tongue poked out the corner of his mouth and he leaned forward, still typing away. Neither of them noticed Jason standing there with the knife dangling from his fingertips.
"No, no, I'm almost there I can feel - yes!" Throwing his arms in the air and jumping to his feet, Tim cried out in triumph.
It looked like he hacked his way into Wayne-fucking-Enterprises.
"Someone tell me what the fuck is going on?"
Both of them jumped a bit at Jason's voice, and Tim's eyes widened.
Suddenly, he broke into a large grin.
"Jay! You're up! Took you long enough. GuesswhatIfoundanokayjob!"
Jason blinked at the speed his brother spoke.
"Slow down there, Babybird. What's this 'bout Wayne Enterprises?"
Tim took a deep breath. "Dick offered a job. Y'know, testing the security of their systems. S'not bad pay... You're okay with that... Yeah?"
Tim began biting at his lip and playing with his thumbs.
Jason sighed, dropping the knife on the table.
"Yeah. Yeah, s'long as they don't arrest you, r'some stupid shit like that."
Tim grinned widely.
"But," the grin faltered a bit. "That doesn't explain why he's here, Timbers."
Which, really, it hadn't.
His little brother shrugged.
"Ran into 'im while I was with Mr. Garrett. Dick offered me some of the cookies in the box - which you have t' try - and I invited 'im here."
Jason turned his eyes heavenward. Of course he got the trusting, soft, lovable brother.
Sighing, he looked back over to Dick, who flashed him a grin.
"I was about to leave anyways. Tim, I'll bring the money to you... Tomorrow? Oh and do you have the notes?"
Tim nodded, grabbing several pages of paper filled from the first line on the front to the last one on the back with words, and handed them to Dick.
"The flaw should be detectible with the notes."
Dick himself nodded and smiled at Tim.
"That's great, Tim. Thanks. Take care, guys."
And the guy was gone.
Looking back over to Tim, Jason raised a brow.
A smirk made it's way onto his lips. He didn't like that Dick had been here, in his home, at all, but that's just how Timmy was. At this point, Jason was surprised they didn't have a dog or cat the kid picked up off the streets.
"So. How much?"
Tim cackled at the question.
Chapter 6: Attentiveness
Attentiveness: noun. the action of paying close attention to something; the action of assiduously attending to the comfort or wishes of others; politeness or courtesy
Dick was hiding something.
What, Bruce didn't know, and that's what has him concerned. He's used to Dick keeping secrets, but eventually revealing what they are to either himself or Alfred (who told Bruce in turn). But the old butler hadn't heard anything about the matter, and Bruce hadn't either.
Currently, Bruce was sitting in his office, staring at his screen as baffled as he'll ever look. Someone had just hacked into the R&D department... In two minutes and forty-six seconds.
It couldn't have been Dick. Bruce has timed his ward before, and the fastest Dick's ever hacked into Wayne Enterprises was seven minutes ad fifty-two seconds, and that had been last week.
Not even he could hack his own security in under five minutes.
Dick sighed, walking in. He plopped down in the couch across the door, stuffing a red pillow in his face with a groan.
Blinking twice, Bruce peeled his eyes off of his screen to look up at his son, who was clearly trying for his attention.
Dick just groaned into the pillow again. A few seconds later, the pillow was moved to his lap as Dick stared up at the ceiling. Narrowing his eyes, Bruce's ward began to speak.
"It's too cold in Gotham. Why is it so cold in Gotham. Why do I still live in Gotham."
Amusement glinted in Bruce's eyes, the break-in temporarily forgotten.
"It's perfectly fine in Gotham," he rumbled.
Dick whined, sounding more like a winded puppy that had just been kicked than the twenty-one year-old he was.
"Noo." He paused, head tilting as he mulled the thought over. "Maybe. Hm. That mean they have no heater? Insulation?"
The last two questions were murmured so lowly Bruce nearly missed the questions.
Puzzled, he asked, "Who doesn't have any form of heat?"
Seemingly startled, Dick stammered over his words.
"I... What? No, I was taking about... Uh... A homeless shelter I visited earlier! Yeah. Bruce it was freezing there. Seriously, it's no wonder there are still homeless out in Gotham winters."
It was such a bad lie. Then again, Dick had never really been good at lying in the past.
Bruce's eyes narrowed.
"Dick," he spoke slowly, "What aren't you telling me?"
Squirming in his seat under the Batglare, Dick whined - again - before bringing his hands to his face. He mumbled something into his palms before shifting his hands so that they were only covering his eyes; freeing his mouth to speak clearly.
"Fiiine." A sigh. "I vis-" And the rest was lost on Bruce's ears, since Dick began to mumble.
"Fine! I visited those kids I told you about the other day."
"Jason and Timothy Todd?"
"Yeah, them - wait how'd you get their last names?"
Bruce stared at his ward for a solid thirty seconds before sighing and rubbing the bridge of his nose.
"Dick, there was blood. In your car. Did you really think I wouldn't do a DNA test? The blood test belonged to Jason Todd, and you told me Tim was the younger brother so it wasn't hard to put two and two together."
Dick blinked before shrugging and nodding his head.
"Got'cha. Anyways, I visited them today, and it was so cold inside, I could have sworn I saw my breath!" Dick shook his shaggy-haired head (Bruce would need to take Dick for a hair-cut - oh wait he couldn't anymore. Damn. When did the kid grow up?). "It's depressing, Bruce."
The older opened his mouth to say something before his secretary burst into the room looking frantic.
"Mr. Wayne! Someone's hacked into our R&D department!"
Bruce nodded, lowering his hand to link it with his other one on the desk. "I am aware, Mallory."
He turned his screen for the woman to see.
The look on her face was scandalized. "Oh."
"If you'll give my son and I some privacy, it would be appreciated. We were in the middle of a discussion."
Mallory glanced at Dick before nodding end exiting the room with the 'click' of the door.
Glancing over at Dick, he saw no surprise in his ward's expression.
Wait a minute.
"Dick." The young man blinked at Bruce. "...Do you know who did this?"
Dick started in surprise.
"What? No, why would you think that? Geez Bruce, you don't always need to be so suspicious all the time."
...His son was a terrible liar.
"Uh, just remembered I promised Babs I'd get her something and I should go before the store closes bye!"
Dick rushed out of the room, slamming the door shut after him.
Bruce pinched his nose again, sighing as he held the position for a minute. Truth be told, right now, Bruce felt old. He was tired and Dick always took a lot out of him - his son was extremely bubbly and energetic.
With another sigh, Bruce looked back at his screen and stared at if for a few seconds. Tapping a button on his phone, he told Mallory to ignore the alert. Nothing had been stolen, and Bruce wanted to catch the person who'd been able to break through Bat-level encryption.
When he got an agreement from his secretary, Bruce cracked his knuckles and set to work tracing the digital footprint the hacker had left, though Bruce had to admit, the hacker was an extremely good one. One who knew what they were doing and covered their tracks well, but not well enough that the Batman couldn't trace it.
A 'ping' told Bruce the computer had just finished tracing the hacker. A location appeared, with a map displayed beside the coordinates.
Writing down the address, Bruce made a mental note to talk to Dick later, concerning the two civilians he'd gotten close to.
In the meantime, Batman had someone to visit tonight.
Dick sighed, slumped onto the steering wheel of his car. He should have known Bruce would figure it out.
He. Should. Have. Known.
But, really, was it so much to ask that he keep the two boys his little secret a while longer? Because if Dick was being honest with himself, he'd gotten attached to those two. Jason and his devil-may-care attitude, and Timmy with his brains over brawn personality...
He really liked them.
But, alas, all good things must come to an end, it seemed. Dick just wished it wasn't so soon.
Oh, life. Why must you be this way?
With another, longer, sigh, Dick sat up and stared out his windshield for a few milliseconds. Putting the car in drive, he pulled out of the W.E. parking lot, and into the traffic of Gotham City.
Man was he Looking forward to some of Alfred's cookies.
Chapter 7: Sacrifice
Sacrifice: noun. an act of giving up something valued for the sake of something else regarded as more important or worthy.
Oh Gotham nights why must you be so cold.
That was the only thing going through Tim's mind as he walked down the barren sidewalk with Jason barely managing to disguise his limp beside him. Jason had given Tim his jacket despite Tim's furious protest but, the younger had to admit, it was nice to have the additional warmth. He hadn't been this warm in a while, even if it wasn't too much warmer than before. Jason was visibly shaking from the cold but refused to accept the jacket no matter how much Tim insisted.
"C-can't h-have y-you th-this c-cold T-Tim."
Tim made a strangled noise as they passed Mick's Picks in frustration.
"Jay y're being stupid. I'm not the one with a bruised knee and five stitches in the skull!"
Jason waved a hand in dismissal. "S'fine, Babybird." He left it at that.
What a prick.
They continued walking in silence. Jason was keeping an eye out for anyone who would even try to jump him and his brother, his hand fingering the switchblade in his pocket. Tim was enjoying the silence and the feeling of the wind gently brushing his face. Tonight was a blissfully calm one and Tim was contempt with appreciating it.
…And then they saw it. Just sitting there. The moonlight glinted off of the smooth, sleek body and made it shine like something straight outta a movie, or something. The tires didn't have the hubcaps on, though, but it wasn't like that mattered right now. What mattered was the design the vehicle had.
There was no mistaking who the owner of the beautiful specimen of a car was.
Jason and Tim had stopped to stare.
"Th-the B-Batmobile? Y-yes, Babybird, it is."
"—way." Tim glanced up at his brother with a raised brow. "You're one t'talk."
"Wh-whaddaya want me t-t'say? S'a b-big brother th-thing. It g-gets on m-my nerves to hear y-you c-curse."
Tim sighed, shoulders slumping in defeat. Though the cold stuttering was rather amusing, Tim was also worried his brother would become hypothermic if they stayed out much longer. "Whatever. Lets go."
Jason, though, clearly had different plans.
"J—" They really need nicknames… "Pete?" Middle names would suffice if anyone was around… The people here only cared about the names they heard. If someone complained about a Peter Jax… well, no one would be found.
Oh, well. Tim would need to find time to tell Jason the new aliases.
Jason motioned Tim forward as he approached the Batmobile.
"C-c'mere. K-keep watch f-for th-the B-Bat."
"I-I'ma s-set t'work on th-the t-tires."
Jason shrugged, finding a tire iron among the scattered trash bags and liter. "E-extra m-money's useful."
Oh wait I said that out loud?"
Jason gave Tim an unamused look. "Y-es y'd-did."
Snapping his mouth shut, Tim lifted his eyes to the roofs. Whenever it came to money, Jason would never be swayed from his perspective, which was: The more money you had, the better off you were. There was no such thing as too much money when you lived on the streets of Crime Alley.
Nearly thirty minutes later, Jason's lips were a shade of blue Tim hadn't thought human lips turned, and he was shaking way too badly to finish the fourth tire.
"Peter, we need t'go. Now."
Tim would drag Jason away unconscious if he had to. Anything to stop the shivering.
Luckily, Jason seemed to think three tires was enough anyway as he tossed the tire iron aside. Standing on trembling legs, Jason nodded mutely. Hurrying to help his brother, Tim allowed Jason to lean against him, if slightly. The three tires that had been successfully been removed were safely stored away behind several crates in a warehouse not far from where the Batmobile had been parked.
Jason and Tim made their way as far as Lee-Ming's Chinese place before Jason was shaking too hard to move anymore. His breathing was… weird, to put it mildly, his skin was freezing, and Tim was pretty sure that Jason was sweating for some reason.
Tim didn't like this: supporting Jason's dead weight. It reminded him of the nights Willis would come home a drunken mess and both Tim and Jason would help their father around, get him this and that, and get bottles broken over their heads and backs in return. Jason was the one who was hurt the most and the worst, but Willis would scream at Tim. He'd tell him how much worse he made the family—how much of a burden he was. With just Jason, things had been hard. With Tim in the picture, however, things got to near impossible.
Tim, Willis had once said, was the concrete slab to break the camel's back.
And carrying Jason, now, Tim couldn't help but remember all those times Willis had yelled at him—had demeaned him—and made him feel worthless. Tim couldn't help but remember and feel the suffocating despair at being the reason his family was living the way they are.
No. Tim couldn't—he wasn't supporting Willis this time, it was Jason, and they hadn't seen Willis in days…
It's not Willis.
Jason's previously shut eyes, fluttered open and he narrowed his eyes a bit in confusion.
"Wh-where're w-we? T-Tim?"
A bit relieved and grateful for the focal point in the present, Tim sighed. "Outside Lee-Ming's place."
A pause, then, "Oh." About ten seconds later, Jason's shivering stopped but his breathing hitched and quickened.
His older brother shuddered and lost consciousness and Tim struggled to keep him upright. They may have been thin from hunger, but Jason always made it a point to keep a lean muscular build. Why, Tim still didn't know.
Panicking, Tim began to yell for help but expected none to come as he ran over options in his head. Maybe he could take Jason to that clinic? But Tim didn't know where it was. Damn! He knew he should have paid more attention when Dick was driving… Uh... Maybe Ms. Lin was still in the restaurant?
Tim jumped at the voice that sounded behind him. His thoughts had been: If she's still in I'd have to—WHAT THE FUCK WHO THE HELL—
Holy… Did the Bats ever not sneak up on people? The jackass freaked the shit out of him!
Warily, Tim eyed the Blue Knight of Gotham.
"No," he answered. "My brother…" Tim glanced over at Jason who's shivering had started back up again. "I-I think he's hypothermic…"
Nightwing eyed Jason before gently lifting him in his arms bridal style—like Jason weighed nothing—and turned to Tim. "Where do you two live?"
Tim shook his head slowly.
"There's no heat at home…"
"Okay… How about your parents? Where are they?"
Again, Tim shook his head.
"Don't got none 'nymore. S'just me and Jason."
No use in lying to the vigilante about Jason's name, Tim figured, so real names it would be.
It seemed impossible, but Nightwing's frown deepened. After a minute, he apparently decided on something.
"Follow me," was all he said before turning and running…
Back the way the Batmobile was.
Figuring he had no choice, Tim hurried after the older—faster—vigilante as fast as his legs could carry him (which wasn't very fast).
Arriving at the Batmobile minutes later ("Holy cripes I've never had to run that fast that long I need a break can we stop now? Yes? Ohthankgod."), Tim had to admit he was slightly amused at the sight that greeted him. Batman was standing over the Batmobile and just staring at it like he couldn't believe he—the God damn Batman—had been robbed in Crime-fucking-Alley.
It was hilarious.
It wasn't funny, though, when Tim noticed that Jason seemed to have worsened. His skin was visibly pale, even in the dim lighting, and he was curled as tight as could be against Nightwing. At the sight of his big brother, the urge to snicker vanished and was replaced with unparalleled worry.
The Dark Knight turned to face Nightwing and Tim, eyes falling on the shuddering teen in the younger vigilante's arms.
"What happened." And holy shit, that voice was terrifying.
There was no question, just a simple order plain as day. 'Tell me what happened here.'
As he spoke, Batman removed his cape and wrapped Jason in it, carefully picking him up in his strong arms. Tim was nervous, now, because what happened when Batman found out they were the kids who stole his tires? He'd throw them in juvie, then shit went to fuck.
Nightwing rested a hand on Tim's shoulder as if sensing his thoughts which, okay, maybe he could and was trying to keep Tim from taking off like a bat outta hell (ha. Bat pun).
This was not helping Tim's paranoia or anxiety… Maybe he should stop.
…who the fuck was he kidding? Tim couldn't get rid of his paranoia if his life depended on it.
Tim cleared his throat, fiddling with the hem of his too-big shirt.
"Um. We were walkin' and Jay was shaking real bad when he passed out. His lips 're too blue and he's cold…" Tim's voice dropped to a whisper. "S'my fault. Jay gave me his jacket so I wouldn't be cold… I should've made 'im keep it. S'my fault."
He hadn't realized he was crying until Nightwing crouched in front of him and wiped away the tears on Tim's cheeks with the swipe of his thumbs.
"It's not your fault—he was just doing what any good big brother would have done. Don't blame yourself okay?" At Tim's shaky nod, the vigilante smiled and enveloped him in a hug.
Batman simply gazed down at the teen in his arms, unsurprised that the cape wasn't helping the teen much. In order for heat to be contained, it had to first be produced.
Tim leaned into the hug ever so slightly.
"We need t'get Jay help," he whispered.
Nightwing nodded and released Tim, turning up to his mentor.
"Should we take them to the 'Cave, B?"
Batman nodded once and shifted Jason so that he could press two buttons on his belt. "Someone vandalized the Batmobile. We need to take the bikes."
Even when he was talking normally he still made Tim shudder in intimidation. And the guy was trying to help!
Sometimes, being paranoid made life miserable.
Abruptly two motorcycles screeched to a halt on either side of Tim, making him jump. "Jesus fuck!"
His colorful language eared him a frown from the Dark Knight and a chuckle from the Blue Knight of Gotham.
"Language," Batman rumbled, mounting his bike and balancing the unconscious Jason carefully against his chest. A minute later, Batman was speeding away with the screech of his tires against pavement.
"Sorry," Tim mumbled though the Batman could no longer hear him.
Nightwing was already on his bike—a nice sleek black model Jason would know the name of with blue stripes—and motioned for Tim to climb on.
"C'mon, kid. Hop on—I don't bite."
"Tim," he blurted.
"I dunno. I thought we were saying random names."
Tim shook his head, fighting a small smile. "No, Tim—that's my name."
"Nice to meet you Tim."
He realized he was still just standing there a second later, and Tim mentally kicked himself. He's wasting time! Batman could already be at the Batcave!
Quickly, Tim climbed up on the bike in front of Nightwing, who positioned Tim's hands on the handles.
"Hold on!" was the only warning Tim got before they were screeching away.
Tim let out a surprised yelp before laughing at the adrenaline rush he got. Whooping, he heard Nightwing mirror his laugh behind him.
Maybe tonight wouldn't be too bad.
Chapter 8: Warmth
Warmth: noun. enthusiasm, affection, or kindness.
so I, uh. have no excuse. if I don't post this now i'm never going to so.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Alfred Pennyworth had been working for the Waynes for countless years, and he'd felt... many,mixed emotions toward the absurdity of what the boy he raised had grown become and do. Alfred still remembered holding young Master Bruce after an especially bad night terror and paying the tears staining his sleep wear no attention. When his boy decided he wanted to dress up as a Bat—one of the things he'd feared most—Alfred had been surprised, wary, and a bit confused.
If Master Bruce—and goodness was it a challenge to call the man he raised "Master"—so feared the creature, why would he want to dress like he is one? Then to hear Master Bruce say he wanted the suit to be Kevlar-woven so he could go out and fight crime, Alfred was sure he'd get a heart-attack and die with Master Bruce's shenanigans. Why would he want to dress up and fight crime in such an outfit? Why would he fight crime at all?
Gradually, the old man came to understand that the way Master Bruce feared Bats, was the way he wished to instill that fear into the scum of Gotham's streets.
That hardly meant he would be happy with the decision.
When the boy he raised allowed and trained another trauma-kissed child to fight crime with him, Alfred could have sworn he nearly fainted and died. But, alas, there he still stood. Years later and that same grief stricken boy who'd worked with Master Bruce in his conquest to rid Gotham of crime had grown into his own man with a new moniker. The title of Nightwing.
Not much surprised Alfred Pennyworth anymore.
However, when Master Bruce arrived at the Batcave with a bundle in his arms—too large to be a small child thank the heavens above—Alfred would admit, he was more than a smidge confused.
As he approached the man dressed like an over-grown bat, Alfred spoke.
"I trust all went well?" He didn't address Master Bruce appropriately because he wasn't sure of the bundle in the man's arms. As he neared further, Alfred could make out the form of the figu—the teen, Master Bruce was supporting.
"It had been," was Master Bruce's gruff response. "Nightwing found these two under circumstances I am not aware of, and requested we bring them to the 'Cave. This one seems to have a highly-developed level of hypothermia, and the second I'm unsure of."
That was as close as the Batman would be heard pleading, in his own way, "Help me out here, I have no idea what to do with this," as Alfred would ever expect to hear.
"Second one, Sir?" he simply responded.
As he spoke, his grandson parked beside Master Bruce with the loud protesting 'screeech!' of his tires, and the surprised—yet joyful—squealing of a child.
When his gaze befell upon the child seated in front of Master Richard*, he understood.
"Ah. I see."
Turning, Alfred was quick to order Master Bruce to take the teenager in his arms to the Med-Bay—which, really, he was disappointed he had to actually say—and follow briskly after, rolling up his sleeves as they went.
Behind, Alfred heard a young voice shout, "Hey, wait!"
Just before he could pause and turn, he heard Master Richard begin to calm the young boy in his care.
"Don't worry, it's okay."
"But where're they goin' with Jay?"
"Agent A is just going to help your brother as best he can—don't worry your mop-haired head over it, Bluebird." Alfred couldn't help but smile at the nickname Master Richard assigned the young boy. So much like him it was for the nickname to be related to the birds he so nearly flew like. "Hey! I've got an idea: want to go check out B's T-rex?"
"Batman has a T-re—NO WAY!"
As they entered the Med-Bay fully, Alfred pulled on latex gloves, though he doubted he'd need them very much. Master Bruce was settling the teen in one of the beds gently; caringly, dare he say. "His lips are blue and his skin is nearly sheet-white. His body shudders every ten seconds or so."
So Master Bruce was going to stay in Batman mode for the time being, then. Alfred would tolerate it for the time being.
"Understood, Sir. If you would fetch the electric blankets for the boy, it would be much appreciated."
Without another word, Master Bruce exited the Med-Bay to locate the requested items—which were actually in the locker rooms—and Alfred found himself alone with a boy he'd never met before.
The teenager's dark hair was slightly matted with blood and, turning the boy's head to the left for a better angle, Alfred could see that sometime during the trip to the Batcave, the he'd pulled two or three stitches in the back of his head.
Grabbing gauze and wetting a cloth, Alfred began to clean the wound, and was unsurprised when more blood began to flow from the cut when the dried blood was cleaned away. Pressing the cloth against the wound, Alfred felt a sympathetic pang hit him when the boy whimpered at the pain. The boy couldn't be older that fifteen, with dark jet-black colored hair, light tanned skin, and the scars of someone who'd lived years longer than he has. It was a sad thing to witness, because Alfred was sure the boy has seen and experienced things no child his age should. But there was nothing Alfred could do about the past. All he could do was hope for a better future.
Master Bruce arrived just as Alfred was finishing off with re-stitching the wound. It alarmed the old butler that he hadn't needed to use any sort of pain-relieving medication for the teenager at all during the procedure.
Gesturing for Master Bruce to lift the boy's head gently, Alfred securely wrapped bandages around the teen's head to protect the wound. After finishing with the bandaging, Alfred plugged the blankets in and swathed the shivering teen in them. The boy had been so cold, his teeth were chattering. The dampness of the Batcave surely wasn't helping any, and Alfred double-checked the positioning of the blankets after placing them.
Ah. More trauma haunted children, then. Master Bruce seemed drawn to the kind like a newly-hatched turtle to the moon.
"Would you like to take them in, Sir?" he asked with a glance Bruce's way.
Master Bruce stared down at the warming teen in the bed. "I don't know them too well. Nightwing seems attached, though."
Alfred hummed to himself and made sure to throw the blood-stained gloves in the waste basket before collecting his supplies to replace—after sanitizing them, of course—as he answered. "And would you prefer for him to take them in instead?"
"The dilemma, in that case, sir?"
Master Bruce sighed deeply and quieted as Alfred went and cleaned the tools. Eventually, he spoke up again. "Their names are Jason Peter Todd, and Timothy Jackson Todd."
In order for Master Bruce to know the names of the young boys, that would imply either a good thing, or a bad one.
He hummed, washing his hands. "Are they?"
Master Bruce nodded once.
"When Nightwing came to me about two boys he'd met, I decided to research them," he explained. "He had some blood samples handy, though how they were obtained was… unfortunate. Jason's got quite the rap sheet on him, however Timothy's is as clean as a five-year-old's."
Alfred was beginning to put the pieces together. So this was the boy he'd heard about.
"And their living arrangements?" Alfred wasn't concerned with the fact that the boy had committed a few crimes, because odds were that the crimes had been small things, and had no doubt been for money, if the two truly were orphans.
Master Bruce shook his head. "I'm not sure. Nightwing would be able to tell you if you do ask, I'm sure."
Alfred nodded. "Understood, Sir. After I check the child—"
"—very well; Master Timothy, I shall prepare their rooms."
Master Bruce looked up, alarm evident on his face despite the cowl, as Alfred began to leave the Med-Bay.
"Nonsense Master Bruce," he interrupted sharply. "We both know you will not deny these boys your son has already bonded with a warm home and proper meals." When Bruce seemed to resign himself to agree, he continued. "Now, Master Jason will not be heating up much without any body heat being produced for the blankets to retain, so I will send Master Richard or Master Timothy to accompany him. Do I make myself clear?"
When Master Bruce responded, Alfred exited the Med-Bay to find Masters Timothy and Richard. He made his way over to where Master Bruce had put the large, mechanical, Tyrannosaurus Rex beside the large penny and Joker card. As he neared the spot, he heard Master Richard telling tales about the stunts he'd pull on the T-rex whenever he thought he'd get away with it, only for Alfred to catch him every time.
Smiling, Alfred continued on his way until he was watching as Master Richard gestured with his hands as he spoke, and Master Timothy seemed ensnared by the story. When he caught sight of Alfred, Master Richard's grin widened.
"And there he is again! Hey Agent A!" Master Richard waved grandly before embracing his grandfather-figure in a warm hug.
"Sir," Alfred greeted with a small, kind smile. Looking to Master Timothy after Master Richard released him, Alfred offered the boy a gentle smile. "Good evening, Master Timothy." \
Timothy looked around the age of nine, with features that matched his older brother's. His hair was the same shade of jet-black, and his skin was only a slightly lighter shade than Master Jason's. Though one difference Alfred could identify was that Timothy was thinner and less muscular than his older brother, who seemed to have a slender build. Odd.
Master Timothy's eyes widened comically. "'Master'?"
Master Richard himself was looking to Alfred with surprise.
Alfred nodded. Master Richard laughed. "No way! Really? How'd you get B-man to agree?"
In response, Alfred raised a brow at his grandson. "I raised the man; I'd be surprised if I wasn't able to persuade my ward to take in two children who need someone to care for them."
Master Timothy looked down at his shoes and played with his hands behind his back, jaw twitching.
"We don' need nobody to take care of us," he murmured. "Jay does it jus' fine. We got the things we need."
Alfred looked to Master Timothy again softly.
"I'm sure, Master Timothy," he soothed. "The arrangements would not be permanent unless you wish them so, I assure you. It will last until Master Jason can walk normally again, and the stitches are ready to be removed. Is that all right with you?"
The boy pursed his lips as he thought. Master Richard seemed to deflate a bit when Alfred had said the arrangements would be temporary, but his joy was still perceptible.
Master Timothy looked up at Alfred through his long bangs. "S'just Tim, and I guess so. S'long as we get t'leave when Jay's okay."
Alfred nodded. "Of course, Master Timothy." He'd chosen to ignore the first half of the statement.
Master Timothy looked ready to protest the title, but Master Richard intervened. "Good luck getting Al to drop the formalities—I've been doing it since I showed up, and he still won't stop."
The old butler nearly rolled his eyes. Nearly.
"If you would come with me, Masters Timothy and Richard. I need to do a routine check-up, then you may do as you please as you wait for Master Jason to wake."
Both boys nodded, and Alfred turned to lead the way back to the Med-Bay. He heard the two talking behind him about Master Richard's experiences as Robin, and when the older boy began recounting the feeling of being in the air as much as he was, Alfred couldn't help but smile.
Approximately forty minutes later, Alfred smiled fondly as Master Richard fell asleep curled up with Masters Timothy and Jason under the blankets.
As he exited the Med-Bay, Alfred smiled at the camera in his hand. The screen displayed the photo of Masters Richard, Jason, and Timothy asleep against one-another (Masters Richard and Bruce were still in their uniforms to Alfred's mild disappointment), and Master Bruce asleep in an armchair beside the bed with his fist propped up to hold his head.
Putting the camera in his pocket, Alfred ascended the stairs to the Manor to prepare the rooms Masters Jason and Timothy would need. Though the two boys would need to adjust at first, Alfred was happy knowing they'd be off of the streets for a good four to five weeks.
(Or however long he could help it.)
*I feel like Alfred would stick to the formality of Richard instead of the informality of Dick. Just my opinion.