Bruce knew that Jason really didn’t like going to the galas. He made that very clear each time they attended. Initially, Bruce believed that the reason that Jason hated the events was the fact that they served as a reminder of the horrific wealth disparity between Gotham’s elite and the people Jason spent the first 12 years of his life around, as well as the over-the-top pretentiousness displayed by the attendees, even Bruce himself at times. Jason let him believe it. After all, it was the truth, if not the whole truth.
The whole truth didn’t come out until nearly a year after Bruce had taken in Jason. The two of them had a long talk a few months after Jason came to the Manor, in which they discussed the palpable tension in the air. To Bruce’s surprise, Jason was immensely frightened that eventually Bruce and Alfred would tire of his presence, and he would be kicked out of the Manor and would have to go back to living in the streets. Bruce was shocked that Jason would think that the scenarios spinning through his mind would ever come to fruition. After making many assurances that Jason would be making the Manor his home until he himself no longer wanted it to be so, Bruce made his big reveal: Bruce Wayne and the Batman were the same person, and he (they?) wanted Jason to become Robin. The expression of pure joy on Jason’s face rivalled the look he had when Alfred told him he could eat as much of the food as he wanted his first morning in the Manor.
A few weeks after Jason had become Robin, the pleasant mood at a charity gala benefiting the Wayne Foundation was interrupted by a resounding “ CRACK !” that Bruce recognized as the sound of a nose being broken. As he made his way towards where the noise had originated-- coincidentally, towards where a majority of the attendees had begun to congregate-- he heard Jason shouting, “How dare you! Who do you think you are, saying shit like that, huh? Who the fuck do you think you are, you fucking piece of shit!”
As Bruce cut his way through the crowd gathered around the scene, he saw Jason kneeling atop a man he identified as Senator Somers, repeatedly striking him in the face. There was blood gushing from the Senator’s nose, which was very obviously crooked. Bruce rushed forward and pulled his son off of the broken man. Jason tried fighting to get loose, but when he realized who had grabbed him, he turned and began sobbing into Bruce’s chest.
After making a few rushed apologies and farewells, Bruce took Jason away from the party, and onto the roof of the building, away from any prying eyes. There, he held Jason and began to calm him down.
Once the sobs had subsided into occasional sniffles, Bruce asked, “Are you okay, Jaylad?” Jason shook his head, pointedly not looking at him.
Bruce then inquired, “What happened in there, that you felt the need to do what you did?” He tried phrasing his question in a way that would not make Jason feel as though he were being blamed for his actions, at least not until he figured out what had happened in that room.
After a couple moments of silence, Jason responded, still not looking at Bruce: “A few of those bastards, they recognized me… from… before.” Bruce stayed silent, knowing that Jason would continue on his own time. “After my mom died, and I began living on the streets… I was desperate. There would be times I would go days without eating, when my jobs were busts.” Jason paused for a few seconds, utilizing a breathing technique Bruce had shown him just the previous day. “One day, some rich guy comes into the alley. Like, his shoes would pay for at least a week’s worth of meals, let alone his watch, or whatever he had in his wallet. So, I followed him, try to get his wallet. I wasn’t as good back then, as I was by the time you met me, after Catwoman had shown me some things. The guy, he caught me. I thought he was ‘bout to beat the living shit- I mean, I thought he was going to beat me up and leave me lying there, broken, on the street.”
Bruce nodded, appreciating Jason’s attempt to correct his language without prompting, and Jason continued, “Instead, the guy takes a look at me, then another, where he really takes his time looking me up and down. He offers me 500 dollars to go with him. Part of my mind is telling me this is a bad idea, but the another part, along with my stomach, says that $500 could pay for a lot of food. Just then, my stomach growls loudly, and the guy chuckles and says he’ll give me dinner if I come, on top of the $500 he already offered. That really makes up my mind. So, I go with him.”
Bruce stiffened, mentally realizing what he’s being told, and connecting it to Jason’s wariness of physical touch. His stomach suddenly dropped, as he remembers the way he and Jason first met, and the similarities to the scenario Jason is describing to him currently.
Bruce was jogged from his morbid thoughts as Jason continued talking: “We get to this swanky apartment, and he asks me what I want to eat. I shrugged, saying I wasn’t picky. He orders some Thai. While we eat, he’s sitting right next to me, and he puts his hand on my thigh. As time goes on, he starts rubbing my leg, going higher and higher on my thigh as he does it, eventually making it to my crotch. I freeze when he starts rubbing me there…”
Jason laughed brokenly, a sad sound. “I just wasn’t sure what I was supposed to do. Sooner than later, he just… went for it and stuck his hand down my pants. And then well…” Jason started the same sad laugh that breaks Bruce’s heart. “I’m sure you get the picture. After that, it wasn’t like I began walking corners like a working girl, but word got spread that there was a handsome little dark-haired boy in the Alley who was willing to turn tricks for a bite to eat.”
Bruce vividly remembered the standoffishness displayed by Jason after he caught him stealing the tires off the Batmobile, and offered to buy him food. He starts to feel a bit sick, as he realized that Jason likely expected Bruce/Batman to want the same things these other men wanted.
“Once or twice a month, I’d have some rich prick track me down and offer me a meal and a few hundred dollars for my sexual services. I was only 10 when this started.” Jason said bitterly. “So, anyway, Senator McDouchebag in there had been a customer once upon a time, and he asked me how much you were paying me to keep me at your house full-time.”
Jason snorted quietly and shook his head. “Now, I won’t lie, the thought that you were the latest in the series of rich guys that wanted me to suck their dick crossed my mind more than a few times when I first met you”- Bruce’s heart broke into even smaller pieces as he hears this- “But I know now that you would never want something like that. So when he implied that that’s the reason I’m living with you… I just felt so angry, both at him, for talking about you that way, saying that you kept me around only for sexual pleasure...” Jason paused, and took a deep breath. “But also at myself, for what I did to survive.”
Jason, still looking out at the cityscape instead of at Bruce, said quietly, “I’m sorry for causing a scene in there. I know how much this event meant to you.”
Bruce, still trying to wrap his mind around everything he’s just been told, just whispered, “It’s alright, Jaylad, it’s all okay”, and slowly begins rubbing Jason’s back, giving him the option to refuse the contact if he doesn’t want it. When Jason in fact leaned into Bruce’s hand, he pulls him into a half-hug.
Just then, a thought occurred to Bruce: Jason just identified Senator Somers as a criminal- he’d had sexual relations with a minor below the age of consent. Statutory rape. Cautiously, he broached the subject with Jason. “Jaylad, you know that what Senator Somers did to you back then was illegal, right?” Jason nodded, still pointedly not making eye contact with Bruce. “How would you feel about looking into whether he’s done this with other kids… we could end up arresting him.”
For the first time since stepping out onto the roof, Jason looked at Bruce. He had wonder written plain as day in his eyes. “We could actually do that?” He asked. “We could arrest that asshole? That would be… shit… I would love that. Especially him. Sadistic prick.” At that, Jason began to shut down, no doubt reliving his encounter with the Senator. Bruce immediately began rubbing Jason’s back again, and whispered: “It’s alright, Jaylad, it’s over. You’re safe now Jaylad, you’re with me.” While continuing to rub Jason’s back, Bruce pulled out his phone and called Alfred, asking him to come pick them up.
Later, after convincing Jason that it was okay to skip patrol on the grounds that it had been a trying night, and yes, Master Bruce wasn’t going out either, Alfred approached Bruce to get the full story behind the night.
“Master Bruce, I heard that there was some sort of disturbance at the charity gala, and that Master Jason was at the center of it.” Alfred said. Bruce sighed. “You heard correctly, Alfred.” “And yet, you don’t plan on punishing the boy?” Alfred continued. At this Bruce’s eyes took on a dangerous glint. “No, but I fully intend on punishing the other party involved in the encounter” Bruce growled. “Jason... wasn’t entirely forthcoming about his past, it was much worse than we previously believed, and he got a harsh reminder of some of the darker parts of his past tonight.”
Alfred’s stomach dropped, and he gathered up the courage to ask: “Did Master Jason confide in you what transpired, both in his past and leading up to him beating the bloody hell out of a US Senator?”
Bruce’s face looked pained, as he explained: “ After his mom died, Jason was fighting for his survival. One night, a rich man, who I was not given the identity of- I don’t know if Jason knows who he was either- caught Jason in the act of stealing his wallet. Instead of beating him, the man offered Jason 500 dollars and a hot meal to go to his apartment with him.” Bruce paused as Alfred paled and breathed out: “Oh, dear God!”
“I’m sure you can piece together what happened from that point on in the evening,” Bruce continued, “and apparently that became a semi-regular occurrence: rich men would offer Jason money and food to go home with them and perform sexual favors. Senator Somers was one of these men. I believe there may be more than a few others in my social circle who had received favors from Jason at one time or another. The Senator, recognizing Jason, asked him how much I was paying him to live with me full-time.”
Alfred’s facial expression darkened at hearing this. “Jason was understandably upset by that comment, hence his reaction. While I won’t go out on patrol tonight, I will be going into the cave to dig into the Senator’s past, and see if he has a recurring taste for minors.”
Seeing Alfred begin to object, Bruce continued, “I have already raised the subject with Jason, and he was more than willing to help with the investigation if it ends with the arrest of Senator Somers. His opinion may change, and I will respect any and all decisions he make in regard to this case.”
Alfred nodded, appeased. “Very well, Master Bruce. Would you like me to bring you any refreshments while you are in the Cave?”
Bruce smiled, and replied: “Coffee would be great, thank you Alfred.”