Jason Todd stood in his living room.
He raised one imperious brow and looked at Talia who was also standing in his living room. Then he looked towards the door to his small bedroom, through which Damian Al Ghul had disappeared to drop off a rather large duffel bag.
“You have many funds, why do you insist upon living in a hovel? '' She had clearly already looked through his ‘hovel’. There were fingerprints in the dust on his door and on the handles of his cabinets, but that wasn’t what was important here. Jason gestured at his door, then crossed his arms, and raised his other eyebrow to meet the first.
Talia sighed, “One thousand two hundred and eighty one days,” she took a step towards him, “it took my Beloved more than three years to realize that he had permanently injured you, who he claims to be his son. Before that, he never realized that you had come back to life. He did not realize that one of his greatest enemies, my father, had been distracted while you were in my care. He did not recognize you when you showed yourself to him as you worked alongside that fool,Eliot. Yes, I know about that. Do you truly believe that I hold such little regard for you as to leave you without any of my eyes or ears on you?”
Jason didn’t know what to say to that. He did kinda think that she’d just leave. He did kill all of his murder mentors. Those were probably people who worked for her, but they kinda had it comin’. It seemed just par for the course that she’d leave after all that. She’d given everything he thought he’d need, and he’d murdered it away.
“Jason I can see it on your face. I do not hold you in any less esteem for murdering your previous teachers, but it does lead to a series of complications regarding the training of your younger full blooded brother. I believe that you met him during the years of your training with me. He was younger then, but I believe that he continues to hold you in the high regard that he did at that time.”
He appreciated the sentiment but, all the same, that didn’t really explain why she was here. It started to. It was beginning to paint a picture that Jason wasn’t entirely sure he’d like.
“That is why I’ve brought him here. You are, as it stands, one of the best masters at arms in the world, one of the few nether affiliated with the Justice League, the League of Shadows, or the All Caste, despite having served in the ranks of all three at one time or another. You have proven to be an excellent tactician, as proven by your systematic take over of Gotham’s organized crime. You are going to train Damian.”
Bloodstained and burned, an empty Robin suit flickered before his eyes, A Good Soldier . Jason raised his left hand towards Talia. Middle finger, pointer, and thumb outstretched, he snapped them together and turned away.
Jason and Damian moved into an old safe house in northern Michigan one week later. It was fully stocked with any and all necessary training materials for one baby assassin.
Four hundred acres of woodland, with a small lake, a bit of marsh, and quite a few of those huge spires of stone with little scraggly Jack Pines clinging to the not-quite-bare rock. Talia payed the taxes (Jason was 80% sure that no one could actual escape from taxes, except maybe the All Cast, or autonomous murder empires, ether way he wasn’t ether one of them).
Damian was about as excited as a prepubescent emotionally constipated baby assassin could get, “I believe this is adequate. Let us begin with dual blades I have heard that you are - ”
Jason placed his hand on his little brother’s shoulder, stopping him short.
Green eyes met teal, “So you would prefer to begin with another topic. What about marksmanship?”
Jason grabbed Damian’s other shoulder,spun him around, and steered him into the kitchen.
Eggs and milk from the fridge, softened butter from the cupboard above the stove. Flower, baking powder, and sugar from the pantry. This was the first thing that Jason did upon entering the kitchen. He turned around and began signing to Damian, ‘Now, what can you do with these ingredients?’
“I … do not understand the purpose of this exercise.”
‘You’re smart, gremlin. What’s the rule of three for basic human survival?’
“Why are you asking me this? I already know the answer,” Damian still stood at the edge of the kitchen, posture perfect, gaze uncertain.
Jason beckoned for a better answer, not in ASL, but that generic flip of the wrist that prompts an explanation.
“ One can only survive three minutes without oxygen. One can only survive three days without water. One can only survive three weeks without food. It is important to remember that these numbers are for the average person, and not the entirety of humanity especially now that meta humans have become more prominent.”
Jason smirked, and spread his hands out over the ingredients. Lesson one: How to cook pancakes.
Four months had passed since the two had come to their house. Damian learned how to dual wield, and had almost insisted on it. Jason had insisted on learning to fight dirty, and even if he couldn’t speak he felt it his sworn duty to teach Damian how to swear, and the importance of curses in five different languages.
Damian and Jason had been perched in the white pine for the past three hours.
Jason had told the little Demon that they were out to work on stealth. Mostly Jason wanted to give Damian a couple hours outside, He’d read that Kids needed to spend a couple hours outside. He knew that he wasn’t the best at this whole adulting thing, but at least he might be able to provide some type of stability.
It had been a good idea. Damian seemed to be enjoying himself watching the wildlife. He took particular note of the deer and the little fox that ran beneath their tree.
They stayed in the canopy until dusk, and when they got home, Damian immediately ran to his room.
Jason cooked a frozen pizza (Jason had made a list of foods that every kid needed to try at least once in their lives. They had already tried hamburgers and box mac and cheese. Damian hatted both equally.) Later that night Damian came down stairs and said ten words, “I am a vegetarian now. We are getting a dog.”
Jason looked at Damian from over his triangle of cheesy goodness and raised his left hand. Middle finger, pointer, and thumb outstretched, he snapped them together and glowered. They were not getting a dog.
Damian named the dog Titus.
Jason wondered how they were going to deal with this when they eventually would have to move.
Jason ended up being grateful that they got the dog because he couldn’t always be there for his kid brother.
Talia had installed a panic room in the basement of the house. Four inch thick steel walls. Food and water that could last two weeks. A punching bag. The lock was on the outside of the door.
It wasn’t for protection from invaders.
Pit madness is a terrible thing.
Jason had gotten most of it out of his system, but it would never be gone. He could feel this bout growing for days. A harsh undertone simmering during his training with Damian. He had felt it as he watched the vegetarian lasagna. He could feel green encroaching on the edges of his vision as he watched the timer countdown.
He knew it was coming, he just wished it wasn’t.
One Tuesday morning the sun was blistering and he knew he needed to go to the panic room. He had enough brain power left to leave a note for Damian on his bedside table, and one by the lock of the panic room.
Jason shut the door and he screamed, he tried to, at least. His pit addled mind couldn’t figure out why he couldn’t hear it.
He drowned in waters the color of bile.
He felt every single scar he used to have. His broken fingers thought they could ghost over the autopsy scar, over the flash burns, all with his broken, broken fingers. Nails torn apart and missing.
He felt the press of wet dirt. Wriggling worms strangling him.
He heard the swing of a crowbar, the swing of a boot.
Saw the flash of a needle.
Felt a batarang slice into his neck.
You are my greatest failure.
He clawed at his hair, tore apart everything he could touch.
Saw his colors on another bird.
Felt his dad’s punch as he was chased across Gotham.
A Good Soldier.
A bad Robin.
You will never be Dick Grayson
When Jason woke up it was to the destroyed panic room. Boxes of food were strewn everywhere. The cereal was pulverized. More than that Jason ached, his head felt like the bell of a cuckoo clock. His mouth was dry and his throat burned. He felt so incredibly tired.
When Damian opened the door, the first thing he noticed was how unsure the boy looked. He had cracked the door open and peered through the thin slit between the steal of the wall and the steal of the door. The second thing Jason noticed was the hand fisted in Titus’ fur.
Damian hesitantly reached out for Jason’s hand, he drew the older boy out into the living room, turned off the lights, and put in a nature documentary.
Jason woke up in the morning with a sore neck and a little brother snuggled tight to his side.
Jason Todd was happy.