It was early in the morning, for vigilantes at least. Jason groaned and blinked at the clock he kept by his bed. Nine am. He slept for five hours. Not that bad, but he could get more if not for the insistent ringing of his phone.
“Yeah, yeah,” he grumbled as he patted his hand around on the bedside table trying to localize the source of the annoying noise. Finally he lifted the phone to his eyes and squinted at the unfamiliar number with Blüdhaven’s area code. “Hello?”
“Jason Todd?” came the female no none-sense tone.
“Speaking,” Jason tried to come up with a reason as to why someone knew who he was and how they got this number.
“I’m Amelia Johnson form Blüdhaven General Hospital. You brother said you would be able to pick him up? We’re ready to discharge him, but he needs someone to get him.”
“Yeah, yeah, okay,” Jason mumbled, already out of bed and throwing on clothes. “I’m on my way. I’ll be there in about half an hour.”
What happened? Which one of the kids got hurt enough to land in a hospital? Why in Blüdhaven? And why he was only hearing about this now?
“Which one of them you said it was? I have two brothers.”
The answer made Jason freeze solid for a minute and then he went back from the door to his safe to pull out a gun.
Jason parked the car a street away from the hospital and took a deep breath. He didn’t know what situation he was walking into. Maybe he should call for back up, but he didn’t want to rip open the healing wounds. Prepared as much as he could he left the car and strolled casually to the hospital. He kept his eyes on his surroundings but he didn’t see anyone following him and nothing suggested he was walking into a trap. He loitered before the building for a moment and made a circle around to be sure and then went in. He didn’t detect anything suspicious inside too, so he moved to the front desk where a harried nurse was making some notes on the notepad.
“Good morning,” he greeted. “I’m here for Dick Grayson?”
The nurse glanced at him, checked something on another pad.
“And you are?”
“His brother, Jason Todd.”
“Second floor to the left, room 205.”
Jason decided to take the stairs. In no time he was walking out of the staircase to the second floor. The corridor was busy. Two nurses were picking up plates from a moving tray and serving breakfast, a few patients walked along the corridor to stretch their legs. One doctor was finishing his conversation and going into the room on the other end. It was equally bad and good.
Good because whomever wanted him here probably wouldn’t do anything in public. And bad, because what if whomever wanted him here didn’t care about the civilians?
Jason checked for the exits and walked to the room 205. He stood before the door, undecided. Maybe he really should call for backup, or better yet ignore the situation and go back to his warm bed.
Oh well, he was already here.
He pushed the door open and stepped inside.
He was greeted by a sight of Dick Grayson whom looked like he went through a wringer. One blue eye swollen shut, bandage on his head, bandage and array of bruises on his torso, splint some fingers, right leg in a cast.
“Jay!” the injured man cried with joy and promptly winced and fell back onto bed as he moved to get up to greet Jason.
Jason stood frozen by the door. Was this some kind of joke? Who that man thought he was? Playing an injured card to lull Jason into false sense of security. Jason would have it right then and there, but they were in a public place. He took a deep breath and played along.
A passing nurse assured Jason that the doctor would come in a few minutes with release papers and gave the released patient clothes to change into.
Jason steadily ignored the other man’s attempts at pulling him into conversation, watching him like a hawk. The man didn’t seem to mind, chattering instead of how he missed home and couldn’t wait to see his other siblings.
Oh he will see them alright, Jason thought. See how he will survive this meeting. If Jason leaves something for the others, that is.
The doctor came and started telling Jason how to take care of the invalid he was taking with him. Jason nodded in all the right places, but he wasn’t really listening, already planning his attack.
Leaving the hospital was equally fast and not fast enough. The man insisted he could walk on crutches just fine, so Jason was happy to let him. The moment they were outside on their way to the car Jason looked around to check if they were alone and pulled the injured man into the alley they were passing by. The wounded man yelped at the sudden move, the crutches clattering loudly onto the pavement as they were abandoned by their owner.
“Little Wing, what-”
“Don’t call me that!” Jason growled, pushing the man hard against the wall and putting a gun to his temple.
The man gasped in pain at the impact and blinked at him dazedly.
“Who are you and what do you want!” Jason demanded.
Jason pressed the barrel harder against the man’s skin, making him turn his head with a wince to avoid it. Jason just followed with movement, not letting up the pressure.
“Who the hell are you,” Jason gritted out.
The man whimpered, quickly loosing focus. His legs gave out from under him. Jason adjusted his grip to press the man harder to keep him up, which prompted another whimper out of him.
Jason snarled wordlessly. He had hoped the man was faking his injuries, but apparently it wasn’t the case. He dragged the man to the car and threw him into passenger seat. There was no way Jason would put him in the back. He wanted to keep an eye on him until he disposed the fucker into Bruce’s clutches. Jason got in and started the car. The man curled in his seat, leaning away from Jason as far as he could and breathing hard. Tears of pain ran down his cheek. If he wasn’t so angry, Jason might feel a little guilty, but as he was the injured mess was lucky he didn’t get a bullet between his eyes the moment Jason saw him.
The ride to the manor was uneventful, save for a few noises of pain from the unmoving lump in the passenger seat when Jason took turns sharper than he should.
Jason parked the car haphazardly before the main entrance and hauled the man out of the car, the short way across the driveway, up the few stairs and through the door. He threw the invalid forward. The man cried out, trying to find his balance from the shove, but he failed miserably and fell to the floor hard with a loud thud. He lied there motionless, but Jason took his pistol out an aimed at him anyway.
The commotion draw attention of the other occupants of the manor and within seconds Alfred and Bruce appeared in the hall.
“Master Jason!” the butler cried disapprovingly at what he saw.
Jason didn’t say anything, just went to the laying man and kicked him onto his back. The man’s nose was bleeding, clearly from his meeting with the floor. But it was not the point Jason was making.
Bruce’s expression darkened in fury.
“Oh my,” Alfred exclaimed in shock.
It was good Tim and Damian weren’t home at this time. They both went to school already and Jason was glad they will miss all the drama. One thing less for him to worry about.
At Alfred insistence the intruder was placed in the Cave’s medbay. He checked the unconscious man over, tutting at the wounds and lecturing Jason about proper handle of injured suspects. Yeah, okay, Jason saw the point of keeping the man awake and able to give them answers. Yes, thank you Alfred. No, he won’t do this in the future.
All through of this Bruce stared at the occupant of the bed silently, stoically. Jason was afraid for the man a little. It couldn’t be easy for him.
“It will be some time before he wakes up,” Alfred announced, taking the medical gloves off. “Why won’t you tell us how did you come by this interesting find over some breakfast, Master Jason?”
“Yeah, okay, I could eat,” Jason readily agreed. He just finally wanted out of the situation.
“You too, Master Bruce,” Alfred’s tone brooke no argument.
Bruce still stared still and silent.
Forget fearing for the old man. Jason started to fear the man. This laser focused intent of dissecting his target didn’t bode well for the stranger slumbering in the medbay.
“I assure you he won’t be getting anywhere,” Alfred added, gesturing at the restrains he put on their guest’s wrists and ankles.
Mollified, Bruce walked off. Jason and Alfred followed suit.
Jason gave his report between huge bites of the heavenly breakfast Alfred prepared. Bruce dark expression grew even darker with each of Jason’s word. It was weird and made Jason feel uneasy.
The food gone, Bruce walked off, probably back to drill holes into the imposer. Jason’s job was done, so he said his goodbyes to Alfred, got a few boxes of dishes for his trouble and walked out.
He stilled on the steps, conscience eating at him. He couldn’t just leave Bruce like that. God know how the situation could affect him. Besides he was curious about the man. And he was called first, so he had the right to see this through.
With a sigh, Jason retreated back into the manor and went downstairs to the Batcave. He heard voices. The injured man had to be awake. That was good. He walked closer on silent feet.
Dick opened his eyes groggily. What happened. He was supposed to be out of hospital already.
“Dick,” he heard a deep voice from beside him.
Dick turned his head with a weak, sheepish smile.
“Bruce,” he greeted, glad to see familiar face after so long. “What’s going on?”
“You’re home,” the Bat replied.
Dick sighed in relief.
“You just had to finish early, didn’t you?” Bruce said resentfully.
“Bruce?” Dick asked in confusion.
“And not only you didn’t tell me, but you just had to go and call Jason, of all people, to come get you.”
“What-” Dick’s head swam. What Bruce was talking about? Why wouldn’t Dick call Jason?
“We had it good here, you know. Without you. Jason was talking to me. Tim was happier and healthier. Damian bonded with me. But you just had to go and ruin everything. You just had to finish the mission early. And you didn’t report to me first.”
The words and meaning behind them hurt, enough to make Dick more alert and focus and become aware of the restraints.
“I didn’t think a few days would made any difference,” Dick said slowly and tried for levity, “besides you prefer the debriefs in person. And I wanted to see the family. It’s been too long.”
“Still, you should have contacted me first. You shouldn’t have come home,” Bruce said. Dick noticed he had a pillow in his hands. “You should stay away. You should stay dead.”
“Bruce,” Dick said in wide eyed alarm as the Bat clutched the pillow tighter and started to rise.
Jason couldn’t believe what he was hearing.
It was Dick. Their Dick. Not an imposer. Not some shapeshifter. Not someone that just looked like Dick. Not time travel. Not dimension travel. Just their own, this world Dick. Dick who just wanted to get home from a horrible mission. Who asked Jason to pick him up from the hospital where he found himself after torture, because one just didn’t get that kind of wounds otherwise. Jason who just hurt him further, treated him like a threat because he didn’t know. He didn’t know!
The guilt quickly got pushed back in favor of the all consuming anger.
What the fuck. What the actual fuck?! Dick was alive and Bruce knew. Bruce told them Dick was dead. Again. And he kept in secret the fact that Dick was alive and well from them. Again. Without Dick knowing this time, apparently. What the Bat wanted to do to stop Dick from coming home eventually? Give him mission after mission and hoping one of them was his las-
Jason paused at the thought, horrified.
As much as Dick’s voice was as he said Bruce’s name at the same moment.
Oh hell no! Jason rushed forward, nearly blind with rage. How that son of a bitch dared to play with them like that. Who gave him the right? Well, no more. Jason will make sure of that.
He ripped the curtain open and took in Dick’s wide, terrified eyes staring at Bruce whom frozen in the act of getting up from a chair with a pillow clutched tightly in his hands. It could mean a lot of things.
Dick was afraid of them after Jason’s oh so warm welcome.
Bruce just wanted to put an extra pillow on Dick’s bed for him to be more comfortable.
Bruce used the pillow for something to hold onto to stop himself from crushing Dick in a hug which wouldn’t be wanted at this time.
But no. Not in the way the conversation was going, if it could be called a conversation. More of an evil monologue before villain disposed of the hero. And Jason should know. He was at the wrong end of it too many times to count.
Jason had his gun out in a split second but Bruce was already ducking out of the way. That was fine, Jason like moving targets. Made it all the more satisfying hitting them. Bruce dove between the medical equipment stored on the side and tried to get over the table for some cover but Jason already put a bullet in his shoulder, causing his arm to buckle beneath him. He crashed down on the table and then the floor with the added bullet in his leg, making a lot of ruckus and taking a part of the curtain down with him. Jason walked toward him slowly, kicking trash out of the way. Bruce panted, turning on his back and looked at advancing Jason.
“Do you see what he had done?!” the Bat screamed. “He’s back for five minutes and look what he made you do already! You weren’t this angry and you wouldn’t shot me if it weren’t for him! Tim and Damian were happier too! He needs to go!”
Bruce was lucky Jason was out of ammo. But it still was gratifying seeing the man flinch as Jason pulled the trigger and the gun clicked.
“I work with you because it’s the easiest way to stay close to the kids. We all made an effort to work with you because Dick would have wanted it. Not because of you.”
“What’s going on here?!” Alfred demanded appearing out of nowhere, as usual.
Jason glared at Bruce.
“Tim and Damian won’t be coming home. If you go near Dick again. If you go near any of them, any of us, again I will end you.” He put the gun back in holster. “Justice League will know about this.” And if they won’t do anything then Jason would do the job for them. He turned to Alfred, “Help me get Dick out of here.”
Alfred pressed his lips tightly, glaring at Jason disapprovingly.
“If you think I will do anything to-”
“He tried to kill Dick, Alfred!”
“Master Bruce would never do that!”
“Yea? The ‘Cave has cameras everywhere, why don’t you check the last few minutes?” Jason would need to make a copy of the footage just in case.
Dubiously, Alfred logged onto the nearest console and pulled up the security feed. The old butler watched with growing dismay at how the man he raised from barely pre-teen age turned on his own son. And for what? For having a better relationship with the rest of his family?
Jason clucked his tongue and hauled Bruce up and away into a holding cell. It will do for now. He then went back and approached Dick slowly. The injured man was still staring in shock, nearly hyperventilating. Jason reached to him, to offer some comfort, but Dick flinched hard and then sucked in a gasping breath as he aggravated his wounds yet again. If having Bruce recoil from him filled Jason with satisfaction of a job well done, having Dick do the same crushed his soul. But could he blame him? He was tortured. Thought he was safe with Jason. And Jason hurt him.
“Hey, Dickie,” Jason said in the softest tone of voice he could muster. “It’s okay. You’re safe now. It’s okay.”
He repeated it over and over again as he undid the buckles on the straps holding Dick down until Dick’s breathing calmed down. But then came the tears. Jason recalled the things Bruce said. This was an utter bullshit and Jason will have to rope the kids into proving Dick none of it was true.
“Jay,” the injured man whispered pleadingly.
“I’m here,” Jason climbed on the bed, relieved Dick was seeking him out for comfort. He helped Dick curl into his side before wrapping his arms around his shaking with sobs brother. “God, I’m here. You’re home now. Everything’s gonna be alright.”
“Bruce wanted to-” Dick choked on the word.
Jason could barely believe it himself, let alone say it out loud.
“I know. You’re safe. I’m here and I won’t let anything happen to you. I’ll get you out of here.”
Dick cried some more until exhaustion and pain meds pulled him under. Jason carefully extracted himself from the injured limpet. He needed to secure the footage and find a means to transport Dick to his safehouse.
“I didn’t think I’d live to see the day when-” Alfred cut himself off, shaking his head sadly. Then he straightened and turned to Jason. “What now?”
Jason exhaled heavily, running hand though his hair.
“I need to take Dick out of here. Tim and Damian will stay with me too. We call the Justice League and show them the footage. Let them come and test Bruce. There might be a chance he’s influenced by something. They should be able to determine that.”
“Very well, Master Jason,” Alfred nodded. “Might I suggest leaving dealing with the Justice League to me? You just focus on your brothers.”
“You’re the best, Alfred.”
“I shall prepare the car for Master Dick.”
“Thanks, Alfred!” Jason called after the retreating form of the butler.
Jason sat before the main computer and downloaded the file. Then he sent the video up to Watchtower with a short note. He still had a moment before Alfred returned, he didn’t want to move Dick by himself. Not after worsening his injures already. He pulled out his phone and called Tim.
“Jason?” Tim answered almost immediately.
“Don’t go to the manor after school. Get Damian and head to my safehouse. I have some news.”
“Okay,” Tim said slowly.
“I mean it, Timmy. My safehouse right after school. Both of you.”
“Alright, we’ll be there.”
“Good.” Jason ended the call and sighed.
Once everyone makes it to the safehouse they would need to move, just as a precaution in case Bruce went after them. Jason had some of the locations ready just for that, but none of them was outfitted for four people and one of them injured at that. It will have to do for a night or two before Jason found something better.
Dick will need looking after. Not just because of his wounds. What Bruce did, what Bruce said did a number on the original Boy Wonder and Jason would be damned if he let Dick believe any of that was true.
Things will be rough for a while, but with Dick back with them again, they would be alright.