Timothy Jackson Drake is nine years old and he knows who Batman is.
He doesn't mean to find out, not exactly. It just happens. Things like this always happen to Tim. It's like everything in the world bends just the right way for him. People never ask where his parents are. He's never caught sneaking around Gotham. He knows who Batman is.
Sometimes he wonders if there's a reason for it. Sometimes he wonders if he's a meta-human.
But he's not, and he knows it. His parents don't have the genetics for it, so neither does he. Simple as that. Tim is just a lucky kid who knows Batman's secret identity. Whatever happens next is up to fate.
Except Tim's luck runs out one night. It's not a special night. It's not rainy and dreary like it usually is. It's not even that cold. It makes Tim's night a lot easier. He gets good photos.
"And what might a child like you doing out here this fine night," someone whispers behind him. Tim freezes. The hair on his neck is standing on end. There are a thousand people who might be standing behind him. None of them are good.
When he does turn around, he's met with a man. He doesn't look intimidating. Not particularly. He has dark (but greying) hair, dark skin, and green, green eyes.
"Nothing, sir," Tim says carefully. "I'm about to go home. Sorry."
"Stay awhile," the stranger says calmly, snapping his arm out to grip Tim's wrist with force. "I'd love to talk to you."
"I need to go home," Tim says again, voice flat. He thinks he's doing a good job hiding just how terrified he is.
"Now, now, I insist." The man smiles. It's not a friendly smile. "Little detective."
"Shh," the assassin hisses, narrowing his eyes behind his mask. "If you're not quiet they're going to catch us."
"No. Who the fuck-"
"If you want to go back home you need to listen to every word I say, do you understand? Don't speak. Nod."
"Good. Follow. Silently."
They make their way through a maze of hallways and doors. It's… confusing, to say the least. He's still not sure what's going on.
Eventually, they arrive in a room with windows. The assassin shoves the sack he'd been carrying on his back into Jason's arms.
"This should have enough food and water to last until you reach the town 70 miles west. The closer one it just that way, about three miles away. It's bigger, so while they're looking for you there you get as far away as possible and call him. Understand"
Jason only stares.
"I asked do you understand?" the assassin snaps.
Jason nods dumbly.
It's only when Jason's already miles away that he wonders how one of Ra's al Ghul's assassins knows English.
"We need to go back," Jason insists. "As soon as possible."
Bruce hasn't stopped staring at him since he got back. It's heartwarming, it is, but Jason needs him to snap out of it and listen.
"Why would you want to go back, Jason?" Bruce asks. "We just got you… I just got you back."
"Because there's a kid there, Bruce. A fucking kid. Wearing assassins clothes. He's so little. Can't be older than ten. And he got me out. Spoke English too. He sounded like you."
"Oh, god," Bruce says faintly.
"Ra's al Ghul kidnapped a fucking kid to make an assassin. From Gotham!"
Jason doesn't know why Bruce isn't yelling like him. It seems all he wants to do is yell.
(That scares him, but that's a thought for later.)
When they get back the base is still populated, sparsely though it may be. Ra's is nowhere in sight. Neither is Talia. But the kid is.
"Jason!" he yells, leaping for him once the other assassins are gone. "You got out! I wasn't sure you would."
The kid is a far cry from the serious and silent assassin who gave him a bag of food and directions. He tears his hood off as soon as he pulls away from Jason a little, revealing a dark-haired kid with probably the palest skin Jason's ever seen.
"You okay, kid?"
The kid shrugs and smiles.
"I'm good. Ra's didn't know it was me. He trusts me."
The way the kid says that makes Jason pretty sure that he'd never trust the kid so easily if he were a megalomaniac. But to each there own. Jason's not about to complain.
"Is Batman still in there?"
"Yeah, he is," Jason answers, oddly endeared by the kid's enthusiasm.
"Sweet! I've always wanted to meet Batman! I'm Tim! Tim Drake. Ra's snatched me while I was taking pictures like two years ago. I think it's because he knew I'd figured out who Batman is."
Jason only falters for a moment.
"How'd you manage that?"
"Dick Grayson should make sure Robin doesn't use Grayson Family moves," he says simply.
"I'll make sure to pass that on."
"Good," the kid says. "Is Batman close?"
"Just up ahead," Jason says. "Hey, B-man, you here?"
There's a grunt from the monitor room.
"There's someone I'd like you to meet," Jason says. "This is Ti-"
But Tim is gone.
"Tim? Where'd you go, buddy? Hey, B, is Tim in here?"
Jason enters the room, but Tim isn't there. Oh, god. Batman's there.
"You really should be more careful about who you trust," Tim says from behind Jason before beheading him exactly like Batman.