3 Years Later
Jason was excited to be heading out on his own for his first solo hunt. He had been looking forward to this moment for over a year. Dean and Sam had made him wait until he had graduated from high school to allow him to go on the road with them on hunts. It was a drag at first, but he soon realized why they were so protective. Unlike many of the criminals he had dealt with in Gotham who were humans who did monstrous deeds, they were still human. Dealing with true monsters was completely different.
Dean had told him on their very first hunt together that monsters were pretty straight forward. Over the course of that first year Jason learned that some of the rare ones just wanted to live in peace and at times toed the line for their survival. For most, there was no sense of right or wrong, just what they could get out of their victim (mainly a food source). Jason learned that a monster’s motive was either for self-suffiency (hunger or survival), or in a vengeful spirit’s case, revenge.
Dean and Sam also made him wait before they would let him go solo on hunts. Dean called it part of his ‘training’. Jason had to admit, hunting with them was fun, even if they made him do all the grunt work, like cleaning weapons, restocking bullets, repacking buck shots with salt and cleaning the guns. He also learned that he needed to work on his gun handling skills.
While Bruce refused to use guns or allow Jason to use them, he still made Jason learn how to handle a gun. Even made him take a marksmanship course learning how to properly aim and shoot, squeeze the trigger, don’t pull it. How to properly hold and secure the gun or shotgun so the kick back doesn’t break something. But if that skill isn’t repeatedly exercised, one tends to forget details that matter. This is where target practice at the Bunker helped Jason hone his aim and techniques with all types of guns.
It surprised Jason that hunting monsters and vanquishing vengeful ghosts was something he was not only good at, but actually liked. He equated it to fighting crime, only without the ridiculous outfit and he was able to use guns.
The only creatures he did not like dealing with were demons. Those guys were dicks. It was rare that they had to deal with them, but Dean and Sam made sure he was plenty prepared, like having him inked with an anti-possession tattoo. The brothers also gave him a very thorough education in creating devil’s traps, made sure he carried an angel blade, had holy water on hand, and that Jason had the exorcism liturgy memorized.
For the last three years, Dean and Sam had been ‘training’ Jason for this moment. It also helped that in those three years he had grown 6 inches and was now in the buck eighty range.
A few days ago Jason had read a few online news reports of bodies found with their hearts missing in and around Downtown Gotham City. It looked like a standard werewolf case, but the only way to be sure was to go and check it out.
“Did you pack enough silver bullets and the machete?” Dean asked, overlooking the contents of hunting items in the trunk of Jason’s Charger.
“Yes it’s all there, Dean. I’m ready.”
“And you restocked everything else just in case: holy water, salt, gas can, spray paint, witch-killing bullets?”
“Yes, and we really need to think of another name besides, ‘witch-killing bullets’.”
“Remember to check in, Gotham is a crazy place. You get in trouble, you call for help. We’ll be right there, you hear me?”
“Loud and clear.” Jason answered, closing the trunk.
“Are you sure you want your first solo hunt to be in Gotham?” Dean asked. “I know that it isn’t your favorite place.”
Jason shrugged. “Yeah well, the location is familiar, and as much grief as that city has caused me, it doesn’t deserve to have a werewolf terrorizing it. Plus, Bruce won’t know how to deal with it. He’d likely tranq the monster and take it Arkham. I’ll be fine. I’ll be in and out, no one will even know I was there.”
“They will if you insist on wearing that red hoodie.”
Jason looked down at his red hoodie. “What, I like it. Hey, I’ve worn worse things, you’ve seen my old Robin uniform.”
Dean laughed. “See you in a few days.”
Jason didn’t say goodbye, there was no need and really, he was only going to be gone for a few days. Dean had also engrained in him to check in daily, so it’s not like he wouldn’t be talking to him on the regular.
The drive to Gotham wasn’t bad, much better than the last time with Dean and Sam. He arrived in Gotham about 10pm just in time to scope out locations and maybe talk to witnesses.
The werewolf who had been terrorizing the city had picked their victims from various bars around Downtown Gotham. Bold choice in Jason’s opinion as the bars were pretty high end serving most of the Business district executives. There wasn’t a known pattern to the choice of victims, just the locations, mainly the alleys between the bars. Jason needed a better view to people watch. He got out his grapple gun and aimed for a roof to perch for a better look.
The first time he had done this he had scared the shit out of Sam and Dean. He told them he was going to get a better look and went to the roof of the closest building thanks to a grapple gun he had found in the bunker. From up high he had a better view of everything, and could instruct Dean and Sam if they were being trapped by incoming accomplices. Also, at the height he was at and his training in stealth, he could ambush the monsters should the brothers need back up.
It was aiming to be a slow night when something red and black in a cape caught his attention. He saw this costumed person fighting some guy in a nearby alley outside one of the three bars he had been scoping. The kid was good, holding his own in the fight with a Bo staff. Interesting weapon of choice, Jason thought. After a few minutes of watching this kid fight, and get thrown against the dumpster a few times, he could see him start to get tired. His reactions were starting to get slower, and his blows less impactful.
Jason quickly made his way to the ground and snuck over to get a closer look, that’s when he saw it, the fangs, and the claws. The werewolf now had the kid pinned to the ground and was trying to find an opening to bite. The kid had his bo staff braced in front of him trying and failing to push the monster off of him.
Jason yelled. “HEY, FUCKWAD!”
His yell was enough to distract the werewolf. The younger teen took advantage of the temporary lapse and was able to push the monster off of him.
Jason took his opportunity and shot the werewolf clean in the head. It fell limply to the ground.
“What? You didn’t…you didn’t have to shoot him! I had it under control!”
“Did you now? Well from my angle it looked like you were his next meal ticket.”
“Batman doesn’t allow other vigilantes in his city, or the use of guns.”
Jason grinned. “I’m not a vigilante. I don’t fight crime. I’m a hunter. I hunt monsters.” He gestured to the dead werewolf lying on the ground. “This is a monster, a werewolf to be exact. The only way to kill it, is with silver bullets.”
He could see by the look on the kid’s face that he didn’t believe a word Jason was telling him. No big deal. Jason wasn’t sticking around Gotham to convince the kid. Jason found a loose tarp by the dumpster and laid it on the ground to use to wrap up the body.
It was then that the kid broke the silence. “Monsters aren’t real.”
Jason laughed bitterly. “You live in Gotham and I’m assuming with that get up on, you fight crime alongside Batman. How can you say monsters aren’t real? You deal with monsters on a nightly basis. How is any of this a surprise?”
Jason could see the kid’s jaw clench and his posture stiffen at the mention of Batman. He looked closer at the kid’s uniform and it wasn’t at all the standard Robin kit. There was no green in the suit and no ‘R’ insignia on the chest. The outfit was red and black, with a golden yellow double chest harness and utility belt. In the center of the chest harness was a black silhouette of a bird’s head. His cape was red and black, long and angled making it look like folded wings.
Jason continued. “You are Robin, right?” He had a feeling he hit a sore spot when the other teen glared at him through his red domino mask and quickly looked away.
“Not anymore. I’m Red Robin now.”
Jason couldn’t help but laugh. The irony was just too fuckin’ good. Everything he’d been wanting to say to the fucker that had replaced him started bubbling to the surface. Here was his chance. “Dude, you got replaced! That’s fucked up! Let me guess, you didn’t get a say in the matter, it just happened. Did you walk in on the new guy wearing your uniform? Is that how you found out? Or did you show up for work and get the pink slip face to face?”
Red Robin just glared at him. Clearly not wanting to talk about this particular painful subject. Jason wasn’t going to let him off that easily.
“So, who’s the new Robin, another orphan he decided to adopt?” Jason guessed.
“No, it’s his kid.” Red Robin answered flatly.
“Wait, what? Batman has a kid?” Jason sputtered.
Jason could now understand the underlying bitterness this kid was going through. It was one thing to be replaced by some random kid from Gotham, it was quite another, to be replaced by Bruce’s biological child. It had to sting horribly for this kid.
“Yeah, the Demon Spawn just showed up one day. Demanding his part of the Batman legacy, so Batman gave it to him.”
Jason had a hard time believing that Bruce would put up with such insolence, but if the kid had part of Bruce’s DNA, maybe that was the pass this Demon Spawn needed.
He continued to work in silence and to his surprise, the kid started to help him wrap the body in the tarp.
“I guess it was only a matter of time before I was replaced too,” Red Robin continued. “Still it would have been nice to have had a say.”
Jason’s head snapped up in anger at the last statement. “Did the Robin you replaced have a say? I’m going to take a wild guess and say no.”
Red Robin’s eyes widened. “No, he didn’t. He died.”
“Oh, so you saw an opening?”
“No. No, it wasn’t like that at all. I saw…I saw a need. Batman needs a Robin. He needs Robin’s light and when…and when Robin died that light was gone.” Red Robin continued. “Batman was angry and genuinely scary. He was beating up criminals within an inch of their life. He was making rash decisions without strategizing and at one point walking into a trap. The first Robin wouldn’t be Robin anymore, so I did what I thought was right and I helped.”
Jason shook his head. His voice losing all heat. “By stepping into a dead kid’s shoes. You must have had some kind of death wish, kid.”
“Maybe, but I helped save Batman and Nightwing that day, and I’d do it again. I didn’t do it because I wanted to be Robin. I did it because Batman was in pain and needed a Robin.”
Jason wasn’t sure what to make of this new information. Running into the kid who had replaced him was kismet. He finally got to lay into the kid everything he had been holding in for the last three years and yet, it felt unsatisfying. The kid’s words when he talked about being Robin were still filled with heartfelt nostalgia, with just a hint of bitterness. Dammit Bruce! Jason knew those feelings all too well. Except his departure from Robin was out of his control, where this kid’s exit was forced.
It did feel good to hear that Bruce had missed him, and missed Jason being Robin. All this time he had thought Bruce didn’t care about him at all. It turned out he had missed Jason the most. He did find it disheartening to hear that Bruce had been so broken by his death that he had been putting himself in danger.
“How did you know all this about Batman? Did you follow him around with a camera?” Jason smirked.
Red Robin’s cheeks flushed in embarrassment. “Basically, yes, that’s how I found out he was walking into a trap.”
Jason laughed at the thought of some kid stalking Batman throughout Gotham with a camera.
“So what do I call you? Red Hood?” Red Robin asked, gesturing to Jason’s red hoodie.
Jason took a deep breath. He wasn’t expecting to run into anyone associated with Batman, but he’d be remiss if he didn’t expect it. This was Gotham after all and it was Batman’s city. Did he even want to give this kid his real name and would this kid believe him if he told him? Jason was a pretty common name.
“No, you can call me Jason.”
The small smile that had been on Red Robin’s face started to fade. He looked at Jason like he had just seen a ghost, or something equally as frightening.
“I knew it.” Red Robin whispered, more to himself than to Jason.
What the fuck?
“Knew what, kid?”
“It makes perfect sense, kind of…” Red Robin babbled. He looked like he just solved the biggest puzzle. “This is going to sound weird but, you’re…you’re Jason Todd. Aren’t you?”
Jason gave him a hard stare. One he had learned from Dean. Did he really want to be one hundred percent truthful with this kid? Could he trust him? He didn’t have any secrets to keep. He wasn’t tied to this city. He had a home in Lebanon, Kansas and a new family with two older brothers. Still, he couldn’t help but be cautious.
“What makes you think I’m him? Jason Todd is dead.”
Red Robin paused in thought before answering. “Truthfully our entire conversation tonight kinda gave things away. You were a little too happy to hear that I had been replaced. You didn’t hesitate to tell me what you really thought of me replacing you as Robin. The true tell was your face when I mentioned Batman’s state of mind after your death. There was sorrow and regret, and then relief. Like you finally believed he missed and mourned you.”
“Nice trick. Did Bruce teach you that too?”
“It’s all part of being a great detective, observation.” Red Robin held out his hand. “My name is Tim. Tim Drake. Nice to meet you, Jason.”
Jason looked at the hand offered and then to its owner. He knew the kid was taking a chance giving him his real name. This kid didn’t even know him, why was he telling him his real identity? For the first time that night, he saw a genuine smile appear on the kid’s face.
Jason shook his hand. “Nice to meet you too, Tim, and it’s Jason Winchester.”
Jason’s cell phone started to ring, breaking up the moment. Shit! He missed his check in with Dean. “Hang on, I need to take this. What’s up, Dean?”
“You forgot to check in. How’s it going?”
“Good, I got the werewolf. It was stalking its victims in alleys near bars in the Downtown Gotham business district. I also ran into a little bird.” Jason said, looking at Tim.
“Oh, the Replacement? How did that go?”
“Not as bad or fisty as I thought it would be,” Jason winked at Tim. “I might stick around for a few days, just to make sure we aren’t dealing with a pack.”
“Let me know if you need backup. Sam and I will be there.”
“Thanks, Dean I will, see ya.”
“So you’re going to stick around?” Tim asked. “I heard there might be some weird stuff happening in Bludhaven. We should go check it out…now.”
“Bludhaven? You’re not subtle at all. I’m not looking for a family reunion, kid.”
“It will be fun. I have to meet Dick in an hour anyway.”
An hour later they were in Bludhaven, and Jason couldn’t believe this kid had talked him into seeing Dick. He had to give Tim credit, the kid was a smooth talker. Still, this wasn’t the reason why he came to Gotham.
Jason followed Tim to one of the tallest buildings in the city. From the looks of it, it reminded Jason of the Old Gotham Bank building complete with the stone gargoyles overlooking the city.
Once they got to the roof, Jason saw Dick looking over the city in his Nightwing uniform. His heart was beating fast and his mouth started to get dry. How do you tell someone who thinks you were dead that you are alive? Just tell the truth, no matter how bizzaro it is, and it will be. Tell the truth, lying is harder. Just tell the truth. No, he couldn’t do this right now. He turned quickly heading for the ladder, but Tim grabbed him and pushed him forward.
“You’re late. I heard you once you reached the roof, you really need to work on your stealth.” Dick instructed, his back still facing Jason.
“Yeah, I was never really good at sneaking up on you, was I? Better late than never, huh Big bird?”
He could see Dick’s entire body tense up and freeze. Dick didn’t say a word, nor did he turn around. Jason waited, but nothing happened. This was mistake. This whole twisted family reunion was fucked up. Jason knew he should never have allowed the kid to talk him into this. The silence was starting to get to him. Someone needed to say something.
Jason finally broke the silence. “Dick, I know how weird this must be for you. I’m gonna go.” He turned heading for the ladder.
He paused hearing the old nickname. It caused an odd ache in Jason’s chest. It was something he hated being called when he was Robin but became an endearment he missed once he wasn’t Robin anymore. He turned around to face Dick, who was now standing within arms reach. Dick gave him a watery smile and then embraced him in a hug.
He expected a hug from Dick. Dick was always ‘the hugger’. He didn’t foresee how much he missed the brotherly affection from Dick, or how much he needed it. He didn’t anticipate missing his brother this much.
“Little Wing, you’re so big and…alive. How?” Dick muttered, once he broke away from the hug.
Jason patted Dick on the back awkwardly, “It’s a long story. I’ll tell you everything over pie.”
Jason stayed in Gotham for two days scoping out any signs of a werewolves. There were no further occurrences. He also used this time catching Dick up on what had happened to him and where he had been the last three years. It was clear that Jason did not miss fighting crime, and he had emphasized his stance to Dick. He had a new life, a new family business hunting monsters and saving people with two guys he loved like brothers.
Dick kept trying to talk him into going to the Manor to see Bruce and Alfred, but Jason wasn’t ready for another family reunion, not yet anyway. He reassured Dick that seeing Bruce would eventually happen.
“So will we been seeing you again?” Dick asked, walking Jason back to his car.
“You can count on it. If you ever have another monster problem, don’t hesitate to call. Nothing is too weird that we haven’t seen.” Jason offered, getting into his car. “We’ll be there.”