Jason felt like he’d been through a war zone where nothing happened, his body ached from the adrenaline rushing through constantly, and he was weary of trying to guess whether the elderly butler was gaslighting him or actually just that naive.
At first, he was relieved that Batman - who was Bruce Wayne - seemed too busy between Wayne enterprises and his night life to do anything to Jason. Now, it just made him want to scream.
It had been a week.
It had been a week, and Jason was tired. Batman - who was Bruce Wayne - was waiting for something, but Jason didn’t know what. The man put Jason in a giant guest room with a bed that could hold four of him comfortably, and had…left him alone, for the most part. He was too numb, too exhausted mentally and physically, too out of it to care for the first couple of days, but ever since then he’d been braced. Quiet, ready for the man to make his move. When it still didn’t happen, Jason tried to convince himself to take initiative, but he just - he couldn’t. Sure, the man was feeding him, but that doesn’t mean Jason owed anything to the rich creep. He was only here because he preferred it over being beaten to death, or, or left for dead in Crime Alley!
He’d bide his time; maybe, just maybe, if Wayne was as sure of Jason as he seemed, to have put it off for so long, maybe he… didn’t really care that much. And if that was the case, if Jason could get far enough, fast enough, that it would be a huge inconvenience to hunt him down - because the man could, Jason had no doubt that he could, he was Batman, but maybe…he just wouldn’t bother.
And now it had been a week. Jason was rested (as much as he could be), and fed (plus a small supply of snacks he had stashed in the closet), and felt like a bowstring about to snap. He was wary of pushing his luck any further, bone weary of thinking of a future that only included the bigger man’s bed and hands on him that he didn’t want there…as if Jason hadn’t had enough of that in his life.
So he was sitting at lunch, with Batman, planning his escape. The man had a tendency to go out at night (duh), so that was Jason’s best chance. He’d leave, tonight. Before the man had a chance to enact any of what he must be cooking up, because whatever Batman was waiting for, Jason couldn’t imagine it would be anything good.
Across from him, Wayne looked up from his papers and cleared his throat.
Jason tensed. This can’t be good. The man hardly ever spoke to him when they ate together. Was this…was this it? An order for him to come to Wayne’s room after dinner? Had Jason waited too long to leave?
“What?” Jason bit out.
Wayne’s voice was notably subdued, gentle. “I wanted to let you know. Dick called and told me he was planning to visit this weekend. He’ll be here tomorrow.”
Dick? As in, Dick Grayson - Bruce Wayne’s ward? And - no. And Robin? Jason felt a quick thrill go through him before he sternly pulled his emotions back into line. He’d be gone before tomorrow, and oh gosh, he hoped Wayne wouldn’t take it out on Grayson. Jason didn’t even want to imagine the horrors Robin had to have gone through before he got old enough and got away. Wait, was Jason not only Grayson’s replacement as ward but - as Robin? Did Batman want to put Jason in a cape? Oh, hell no! Jason was no hero. And he wasn’t self-sacrificial enough to just lay down and take Grayson’s place. Grayson was out, he was safe enough - and Jason would make his own move, tonight.
Jason startled. Wayne was looking at him, studying, his voice light.
“Sure, I guess,” Jason mumbled.
It wouldn’t matter to him.
The jittery restlessness of his limbs, waiting for escape was only really a little better than waiting for Wayne to make a move. It seemed like it took forever after it got dark before he could be sure that Batman had gone out.
He took a breath. No time to waste.
It didn’t take him long to get the window open - that wasn’t the hard part. Jason grabbed the backpack from the back of the closet, checked it and counted every apple, protein bar, and cracker package that he had saved, as well as a few books he had secreted away from the library. He liked to hide there, figured no one would even think to look, until he found a copy of Robinson Crusoe with a note from the butler, Alfred, laid out on the arm of his favorite plush chair. Jason’s stomach did a flip at the thought of Alfred. He hoped - he hoped Batman wouldn’t take it out on the butler when he found Jason missing. He didn’t want Alfred to be punished; it wasn’t his fault. He wasn’t any more free to leave than Jason was. Jason opened the window, blankets tucked into the frame to dampen the screech of the old hinges. Fresh night air floated in. Jason shivered, and hesitated. A red hoodie, thrown to the floor in one of Jason’s more heated moments, lay limp in the closet and he hopped over and grabbed it, tugged it on before climbing up on the sill. It did little to calm the chills running up and down his skin.
This was it; the point of no return.
He might be mercilessly hunted down, retrieved, punished…at least then the man would finally make a move! Or he might just decide Jason wasn’t really worth all that bother, and oh, Jason planned for it to be a bother. He was good at being inconvenient, and sometimes being inconvenient was all it took. Half of what happened in Crime Alley were just crimes of opportunity. Hell, Batman didn’t even know Jason’s full name, so he wouldn’t be able to find him through any system. There could be a hundred Jason’s in Gotham.
He dropped hard to the damp ground beneath the tree and held his breath as he waited for any sound of an alarm. Nothing, at least nothing audible. He brushed some leaves over the deep indentations of his tennis shoes in the grass, and crept forward, breathing in the cold, clean air so unlike anything in the Alley.
His next obstacle: the fence. Hopefully, this wouldn’t prove a hard one for Jason, either. It wasn’t a problem to hitch his hands to one of the tall poles and half-pull, half-shimmy his way up until he was high enough to grab onto the fancy pikes along the top. He grabbed the pointy tip, which turned out to be a bit sharper than he was expecting, and awkwardly tried to heave himself over. It sort of worked - he was hanging of the other side of the fence, freedom just eight feet below, but his backpack had caught on the top of the pike and ripped a hole in the side seam, a few of his granola bars tumbling out onto the ground below. Jason cursed in his head, a bit frantic. He reached one hand back to grab the seams together and close the hole, and in the process, left his one hang hanging on to the pike dangerously imbalanced. He could feel it slipping, let go of the backpack to swing back around and catch hold of it - but too late. There was a quick whistle of air in Jason’s ears, and he landed - on his feet, but - landed wrong, off, his left ankle giving way underneath him and twisting a bit in the process. He was gasping, crumpled in the wet grass, ankle throbbing, but - he was free.
He rose carefully, and tentatively put his weight on his left foot. He winced. It wasn’t broken, anyway. He could…he could still do this. He took another deep breath and started in a slow trot toward cover.
This was unfamiliar territory, different than the cityscape Jason was so used to navigating; this was wide open spaces, the smell of dew and grass and totally different reasons to be afraid of the shadows. He couldn’t travel along the road, too noticeable. If he were able to hitchhike, he might risk it anyway, but he had watched the windows enough to know that in this quiet, residential neighborhood, the possibility of cars coming and going at this time was unlikely, and definitely not someone willing to give him a ride. No, it was safer to stick to the woods, as much as the sight of them made Jason shiver. He ducked into the trees, glanced back at the house - Wayne Manor - took in another breath of the biting air, and legged it. This was his moment to get as far as he could before Batman got back. Would he notice Jason missing right away? Would he not even figure it out until morning?
It was so dark - it didn’t get so dark in the city, not like this - something caught on his foot, and Jason clamped back a scream as he tumbled down, his fingers scrambling against the ground. It was softer than he expected, crumbling under his palm, damp and silty. There were smudges of it clinging to the bottom of his chin, his hands. He pushed himself up as a soft wind rushed through the trees, ruffling branches and setting Jason’s teeth on edge.
Hadn’t thought to bring a flashlight, had he? Of course not.
It was only a little darkness. Jason wasn’t afraid of the dark - he wasn’t a baby! It’s just - who knew what was in these woods?
His ankle was still pulsating with pain, but he had to - he had to get farther. He pulled the sweatshirt tighter around him and pressed warily forward.
Suddenly - a dim, distant glow. Jason jerked his head up, and instantly stepped toward it. Light meant civilization and Jason was oh, so ready for civilization. Batman surely would be expecting Jason to head back to Gotham City proper - and Jason would! Just…maybe not tonight. His ankle wasn’t broken or anything, probably not even properly twisted, but was throbbing from it’s earlier impact, and Jason was tense from shivering so much, even with the hoodie gathered tight around him. Whatever the light was, Jason could just…hang out around there. Just overnight, so no wild animals could get to him. He’d be gone before anyone there even noticed.
But as Jason got closer, he realized there might not be anyone there to notice. Surely not all rural Gothamite mansion owners had Batman’s night life, but the place seemed deserted save for the warm beams of an automatic porch light. Jason crept closer, crossing over the lush lawn to the garage. There was a carport area, a garage door - Jason squinted, studying the garage door a little closer in the porch light. No, he was right, there was - he ran his fingers under it. Dust? Nobody had been home for a while, then. The lights inside were probably an automatic timer or some fancy crap like that. This was - oh, this was better than Jason had hoped! Definitely not a place Batman would think to look for him! This was gonna be pie - Jason broke into a slow grin and pulled out his lock pick. He hesitated at the front door. Would there be an alarm set? It might be safer to go through a window - a second story one, if he could manage it.
Jason could, in fact, manage it, since there was a ladder leaned up against the side of the house straight underneath one of the windows. Had someone else broken in before? Ha. If they had, whoever lived here deserved it. Who owned an actual mansion like this and then were away long enough to gather dust?
Jason climbed up the ladder, pulling his ripped backpack up behind him, careful to hold it with the tear closed so nothing fell out. Yup, Jason was going to sleep well tonight, maybe for the first time in a week. He set the backpack down, holding it steady at the top of the ladder, and fumbled his lock pick forward in his other hand. He held his breath as he heard the click of the mechanism sounding, and the window fell just a tinge inward, invitingly. Jason listened for a sound from inside the house.
He pushed the window wide, threw his backpack into the room, hooked his feet on the sill and jumped to the floor, remembering too late his left ankle probably wouldn’t appreciate the landing. It didn’t, buckling under him, and Jason let out a sharp, hoarse cry, gritting his teeth as crumpled around it. He bit his lip and pushed himself to his feet, closing the window silently, and flipping the light switch on before turning to look around. It was a room, probably a guest room. There was a desk, a closet, a bed, a boy, all neat and tidy and tucked away - Jason swiveled. That. That was. There was a boy on the bed. Laptop on his knees, camera on the bedspread beside him, staring as Jason curiously with wide blue eyes. No, that - that wasn’t right! There wasn’t supposed to be - no one - how -
“Hello,” The boy said politely, and blinked at him, looking disturbingly like an owl.
The kid looked - he looked about ten, and that was his reaction to having a stranger break into his room in the middle of the night? God help the rich folks of Gotham!
“You - ah,” Jason stalled, staring at him, a bit stupefied. “What are you doing here?”
The boy blinked at him again . “I - this is my house?”
“No one’s supposed to be here!” Jason spit, frustrated.
“There isn’t - I mean, no one is here. Just me.”
Well, yes, and that was a question for another time, but - “you realize if I was a regular Crime Alley crook, you’d be dead now and I’d be rummaging through your mansion for valuables?”
The boy set his laptop aside and leaned forward eagerly. “You’re from Crime Alley?”
“Yes,” Jason growled, trying to look tough and threatening. He wasn’t sure he was succeeding. The kid looked positively enthralled. “And I need to get away. From a - a bad guy, okay? He’s after me. It’s dangerous.”
The boy’s eyes had gone huge and round, but he didn’t look frightened. “Who is it?” He squeaked - was he excited?! Aw, hell with these high wing socialites who thought Crime Alley was exciting.
“Look, it’s a long story, kid-”
“Okay, Tim, it’s a long story that I won’t get into, okay?”
“No, you don’t understand!” Tim catapulted from the bed onto his feet in front of Jason. “I can help! We can - my neighbor, Mr. Wayne, he’s - er, he’s really…rich and stuff, and people are afraid to go after him, we can go to him, he can call the police for us-”
“Tim,” Jason interrupted. Damn, he felt like he was ruining some poor rich kid’s naive childhood. “Tim!”
The boy finally stopped talking.
“We can’t go to Mr. Wayne’s.” Jason said tiredly.
“No, we can!” Tim argued earnestly. “He’ll listen to us, I know he wi-”
“Tim, I just came from Mr. Wayne’s.”
The kid’s jaw dropped. “N-no,” he stuttered. “That’s-” he stopped for a moment, looking confused. At last, he seemed to rally himself. “I don’t know what you’re afraid of,” Tim said firmly, “but you need to go back. Whatever is wrong, Mr. Wayne can help you.”
“I am not,” Jason exploded, “going back to that pervert!”
Jason clenched his fists, and Tim had gone very, very still.
“I think…I think there’s been some kind of misunderstanding.”
Jason glared at the smaller boy. “Guess you don’t know your neighbor as well as you thought you did, Timmy.”
Tim flushed, looking suddenly guilty. “I-I don’t, exactly know, I mean we’ve just met, a few times - at galas and stuff, ‘cause my parents know him, and he’s- he’s…he was always really…nice to me,” he ended lamely.
Jason paused. Something in Tim’s eyes, almost a hero worship, Bruce Wayne had been nice to him - Oh, oh no. This was worse than he thought. Bruce Wayne wasn’t just preying on random little Crime Alley rats with crimes to pay for and no one to miss them - he was grooming kids, actual kids, and Tim’s parent’s hadn’t even noticed!
Suddenly overcome with horror, Jason grabbed Tim by his shoulders. “You need to stay away from him!”
“He’s a good guy, he is!” Tim insisted, not listening to Jason, like, at all, even though Jason was obviously older and wiser than this naive shrimp. “He wouldn’t hurt you. Bruce Wayne -“
“- he’s not who you think he is, okay?” Jason growled.
Tim pursed his lips in stubborn, silent protest. “What if you could talk to someone?” He said suddenly. “Someone who would know, I mean? Would you listen then?”
Jason scoffed. “Look, kid, ain’t nobody close to Bruce Wayne I would trust to tattle on him-”
“What about Dick Grayson?” Tim asked quietly.
Jason stopped. Dick Grayson - Robin. But Tim whatever-his-last-name-was wouldn’t know that. Jason just couldn’t, wouldn’t drag him into this mess, not for him. Grayson had better things to do, Jason was sure. After all, he was Robin!
Of course, Jason didn’t know it, but Tim felt sure that if he could just get Dick here - he was Robin, he could fix this, he could help Jason, he could do all the things Tim was too stupid to know how to do. This was the most exciting thing to happen to Tim in a long time, and sure, he’d be daydreaming about it for weeks later, but right now he was in way over his head. He couldn’t explain what he knew about Bruce Wayne without exposing the man as Batman, which was absolutely not an option, not to anyone, but especially not to a Crime Alley teen running scared thinking Mr. Wayne wanted…would do…that to him. But Dick. Dick would know what to say. Dick Grayson could fix anything. After all, he was Robin!
Ah, late night road trips…nothing like ‘em. Stock up on enough sugar and energy drinks to kill an elephant, a little bit of Bon Jovi blasting out the car speakers - yep! He could almost forget he was going to be back in Gotham for the weekend. Eh. It probably wouldn’t be that bad. Dick even - sometimes - rarely - once in a very long while - admitted that he - occasionally - missed Bruce Wayne. He was sure the residual good feelings would last less than ten minutes after actually arriving at the Manor, so best to ignore them while he could. He turned Livin’ On A Prayer up to nearly full volume, accelerated the gas pedal, and let his mind sink into the groove -
Dick slammed a hand over his left ear and turned the speakers down hurriedly. A phone call coming through? At this time? If they were missing him in Blüdhaven already, he was definitely rubbing this in -
Dick shrugged and pressed the button on his dashboard to answer.
“Hello, is this Dick Grayson?” Said a young, completely unknown voice.
“You can’t call Dick Grayson!” Jason barked, trying not to sound panicked.
Tim brightened, seeming to think that this was a good idea, but it wasn’t! It was a very, very bad idea! Before he could stop him, the slippery little eel dove across the room toward the desk.
“What! Timmy, no-!”
It was too late, Tim had the phone in his hand, and Jason felt faint. Oh, no. Tim was really going to call -
“Hello, is this Dick Grayson?” Tim asked brightly.
Jason died a little bit inside. Tim didn’t understand! There was probably a reason Dick Grayson was hardly ever seen in Gotham these days - the other boy had been lucky enough to survive, to get away, and now Tim was going to pull him into a bad situation probably full of bad memories -
“Heeeeey! Yeah, Dick here!” Answered a voice with way too much enthusiasm. He didn’t sound like he’d been woken up. Did anyone from Gotham ever sleep?! “Who’s this?”
Tim hesitated. “Don’t - don’t hang up,” he said haltingly. “It’s just - you don’t know me, but there’s someone here who could really use your help right now. My name is Timothy Drake.”
“Timothy Drake…Drake? Tim Drake? As in, related to Jackson and Janet Drake, Drake Industries?”
Tim stiffened a little. “I - yes.”
“Wait, you live next door to the Manor, right? Gotchaaaa! So what’s up, Timmy? Is everything okay there? Is the Manor okay?”
Grayson sounded concerned, but also very, very confused.
Jason died a little more.
“No, I’m fine - it’s - um, you know Bruce Wayne?”
There’s a bewildered laugh. “Well yeah, Bruce is my - is he okay?”
“Mr. Wayne is fine!” Time yelped. “It’s just, there’s someone here and he - sort of…he- needs to talk to you!”
Tim shoved the cell phone aggressively at Jason’s head, obviously panicking now that he actually had Dick Grayson on the line, and Jason was not going to have this fobbed off on him, when he never wanted Tim to call Robin in the first place!
“I do not!” Jason snarled, pushing the phone back toward Tim. “Get that away from me!”
The little shrimp actually had some strength in those stringy little arms; not enough to match Jason, though. Jason heaved the phone away from him one last time, and it went, pulling Tim with it. The boy tumbled backwards onto the ground with a thump, the phone landing a few feet away. Jason heard Grayson’s voice distantly through the speaker, sounding concerned. “Tim? Is someone there with you?” And then, very calm - “Tim, I need you to tell me if you’re in danger. I need you to tell me if Bruce is in danger. Where are your parents? Is someone being violent with you?”
“No!” Tim yelped, scrambling to his feet and and grabbing the phone up, only to nearly drop it again in his haste. “No, my parents are out of town, actually but I’m fine, it’s-” Time stopped and looked as Jason helplessly, while Jason realized gleefully that he hadn’t actually told Tim his name.
“It’s the person I’m with!” Tim burst out.
“Tim, where are you?”
Oh. Oh, no. Jason didn’t know what that voice was, but if he had to guess, it sounded like Robin was about to go into action.
“Don’t tell him-” Jason hissed, and then Tim, “We’re at Drake Manor!”
“Okay, kiddo. I need you to stay calm, alright? I’m on my way.”
There was a click, like Grayson had hung up, and Tim said petulantly into the phone, “It’s Tim.”
Jason crossed his arms. “I hope you’re happy.”
Now he had to stay, ‘cause Robin thought something was wrong!
It was fine. This was fine. Grayson would come, Grayson would see there was absolutely nothing going on that he needed to do anything about, and Grayson would go. Jason had this.
Dick could tell Bruce was out patrolling, because when Bruce picked up, he could hear the traffic in the background, distant shouts, and the sort of murky, foreboding pauses in-between that were so evocative of certain backways in Gotham that had always given Dick the heebie-jeebies.
“Hey, B,” Dick said, smiling cautiously.
“Dick.” Bruce grunted, a question in his voice.
“Just wanted to - uh, make sure everything was a-ok? You’re, er, alright?”
“I’m - of course I’m alright, Dick. What is this about?”
Okay. Okay, that was good. Dick would be lying to himself if he didn’t admit his heart rate had calmed a little at Bruce’s composed assurance. But that left Timothy Drake in a bad situation, because whatever was going on, he didn’t have Bruce there to stall the bad guys or whatever was going on. The back of his mind was asking questions about how Timothy Drake even had Dick Grayson’s personal cell phone number, but the bigger part of him was just screaming that there was child that was in danger. He couldn’t show up as Robin, of course, which limited him, but even Dick Grayson would be better than nothing. “You don’t know me, but there’s someone here who could really use your help right now.”
Nope, there was nothing for it. Dick turned the wheel sharply, headed in the direction of Drake Manor.
“Are - are you alright?” Said Bruce’s voice, sounding awkward and concerned, and oh. Dick had forgotten he was on the line.
“Yeah, just headed to the Manor now, but I…think I need to make a little detour. Not sure what time I’ll get there.”
There was a silence in which Bruce was probably nodding and forgetting that Dick couldn’t see him because sometimes he was that way.
“So, I’ll see you-” Dick glanced at the clock. 3:30am. “-later?”
“You know me, I’ll be sleeping in,” Bruce replied. “And - I…have something important to talk to you about.”
“Yeah, yeah - okay, we can talk. Bye, B.”
“Goodbye, Dick,” Bruce’s voice was suddenly all soft and warm, and Dick felt the timbre of it wrap around him like a soothing balm. He closed his eyes, just for a second.
It was going to be good to be home.
Drake Manor was eerily quiet when Dick pulled up. The garage closed, most, but not all, of the lights out - Dick tried the door. Locked. He paused, mind racing. Did he pick the lock and go in? Creep around and see if there was another way in, maybe sneak in and surprise them? What kind of situation was dire enough that Timothy Drake called a neighbor he barely even knew for help? And why not go to…well, like an actual adult? Or his parents? Dick couldn’t wait any longer. He carefully picked the lock, let the door creak open, and entered the house.
The place seemed almost - not quite - as big as Wayne Manor, but it had a feeling like an upscale hotel, or even a museum…did anyone actually live here? Where were the Drakes?
Dick took the stairs up, praying for a similar layout to Wayne Manor, with the bedrooms, offices, and more private rooms upstairs. He called Timothy Drake’s name softly. Whoever was here must have left. It was just too quiet. A robbery? A kidnapping? Had Dick gotten here in time? He started jogging through the halls, his voice growing more frantic.
There was a snarl from one of the rooms, and Dick saw a light under one of the doors. He burst into the room, flinging the door open so forcefully it bounced off the wall behind it with a bang.
The two boys in the room startled. Did…did Timothy have a brother? They were similar…not quite related, though. Their builds were too different. Dick racked his mind, trying to think of how old Timothy Drake would be. Which one was Timothy? And who was the other boy? The taller one looked like he’d…well, he was wearing a too big hoodie that looked strangely familiar, his tennis shoes were soaking wet, and there were smudges of mud on his face and hands. But…neither of them looked…hurt, or…the window was open, and there was dirt tracked in behind shoe imprints in the rug, but there was no blood, no…
“Dick!” Squeaked the younger boy.
The other one, looking absolutely ragged, his shoulders tense, was staring at him with wide, wide blue yes. “Dick Grayson,” he breathed.
Dick, having established that there was no immediate threat (maybe never had been), relaxed a bit. He scanned the boys again. If Dick had to guess, Timothy had bet his friend he could get his rich neighbor over here to meet his friend? Bruce Wayne’s son? That would make a lot more sense - and the boys were so cute staring at him that Dick couldn’t even be mad.
“So,” he grinned slowly “was this a…bet or something?”
“No! No, no, no,” The younger one - he was really young, what was he, nine? Ten? - sounded horrified, so Dick patted him on the head.
“Hey, it’s okay, no worries! I was on my way to the area anyway. What do you want? A picture?”
The little one looked even more upset. “No, you don’t understand, it’s Jason, he needs your help!” He appealed.
“Jason,” Dick said. “Is that…?” He turned toward the other boy.
The taller boy crossed his arms over his chest and tried his best to glare, but he couldn’t quite seem to direct it at Dick, so he directed it at the younger boy.
“Look, I - I really appreciate you coming, I do, but Tim’s just a bit confused. We’re fine, here, I can handle it, in fact, I already got away-”
Ah, okay. Dick’s mind immediately shifted from joke to help victim. A bad home situation? It fit the scenario.
“Jason,” Dick said seriously, “I don’t doubt that you’ve done a great job. I’d like to help you, though, if I can. We can go to the police-”
“No!” Jason panicked, eyes going wild. “No police!” He rounded on Tim. “I told you I was fine! This is-“
“Whoaaaa,” Dick caught Jason’s arms reaching toward the younger boy as if to shake him. “Slow down, buddy. It’s going to be okay. No police, alright? Can you tell me why you don’t want the police involved? Tell me who’s after you.”
Jason sunk to the ground as if he was a balloon loosing all of it’s air. He sighed. “I didn’t want to have to involve you,” he said quietly. One of his hands had turned toward Dick’s and was holding on tightly. “I - I can’t,”
The poor boy looked close to tears. Dick fell to the ground beside Jason and cautiously pulled Jason into his lap for a hug. “It’s okay, Jason. We’re going to figure this out, I promise you. Are your parents hurting you? Can you tell me who they are?”
“It’s…it’s not,” Jason said miserably.
Timmy, who was crouching on the floor, obviously trying to give them space, said, “It’s Bruce Wayne.”
Jason felt every muscle in Dick Grayson’s body tense. The arms that had wrapped around him, so big, so safe feeling, pulled away, and there were hands on his shoulders, pushing him.
“Wait, are you trying to…you’re claiming that Bruce hurt you?” Dick’s voice was full of disbelief, almost cold, almost interrogative, and his eyes were narrowed at Jason like this was some plot he had cooked up.
“Look, Dick,” Jason’s voice broke a bit, his eyes beginning to gather tears that he forced back. It was just so nice to have someone bigger, older there, he didn’t have to do everything, but he didn’t want to cry in front of Dick - this was Robin! “I…I know, what he did to you. I got away, just like you did, except…before he managed to do anything yet. It’s messed up, I know, and I’m so, so sorry you got dragged into this!”
Jason’s ribs seized with the effort to hold in a sob, and his ankle hurt and Dick had been holding him, but now he wasn’t, and…
“I…I don’t…” Dick’s voice trailed off.
Timmy piped in helpfully. “I knew you could tell him that Mr. Wayne wouldn’t hurt him! He’s a good guy, isn’t he, Dick? Mr. Wayne would never hurt Jason, right? And he didn’t need to run away?”
“Of course - I - wait, what do you mean? Did he run away from Bruce?” Dick sounded bewildered, and Jason guessed the shock of realizing that Bruce had gone for another boy - a replacement now that he was so much older…probably the guy needed some time to adjust.
“It was stupid,” Jason said, tears finally spilling over. “It was the stupidest thing I’ve ever done, but I - but he caught me stealing them, and then he was going to traffic me to the police, so I - I had to do something and I told him - I’d be his…I’d told him I’d give him - and he agreed, but then he hadn’t done anything yet, so I thought maybe I could get away, make a run for it, I never meant for you to-“
Dick’s hand is back, soothing over the top of Jason’s hair, which is cleaner than it’s been in months because he actually started taking advantage of the showers after the first day, figured Wayne would like him clean if he was going to be in his bed, Jason had walked into this willingly, not that he’d had any other options at the time.
“Slow down, little Jay,” Dicks says gently. “It’s going to be okay, are you - you’re saying you offered to…have sex…with Bruce, and he agreed and took you to the Manor?”
Jason curled one hand in frustration. Did Dick not believe him? What was so hard for Dick to understand? Wayne had done the exact same thing with Robin, hadn’t he? So why wouldn’t Dick believe him? Jason knew he was just a street rat, but Dick was Robin, he should be helping Jason, how could he not believe him?
“I told you,” he bit out, a flare anger but he was pretty sure he wasn’t very intimidating, not when he was still crying.
Dick opened his mouth, closed it, then pressed his lips together and shook his head. “Oh, Bruce,” Dick muttered. He closed his eyes for a moment, and then he leaned forward, tipped Jason’s chin up and looked the boy in the eyes.
“Jason,” he said seriously. “I don’t know what Bruce said to you, or what conversation you had, or what you thought you understood. But Bruce would never, never touch you that way.” Dick swallowed against the nausea in his throat and repeated for good measure, “never.”
Jason stiffened and pulled away from Dick, anger flashing on his face. “Don’t lie to me! You don’t have to-” he slumped against Dick again, suddenly so, so small. “You don’t have to lie to me, alright?” He said quietly.
Dick wanted to cry. He wanted to wrap this boy up in a blanket and take him home and never, never let him get hurt again. How could he convince Jason? He couldn’t just tell him Bruce was Batman, and Batman didn’t hurt kids…no, the simple way was never an option!
“Jason, listen to me. Are you listening?”
The boy nodded miserably into Dick’s chest.
“Bruce never hurt me. He never touched me that way. I’m his son, that’s it. I know there are rumors, but they’re just…wrong. Okay? They’re wrong. Bruce never wanted that from me, and I don’t…I don’t know what went on, but I know he doesn’t want that from you.”
Dick closed his eyes again. It had been a long night, he hadn’t had any sleep, there was a boy crying in his lap, and Dick just wanted to be home, preferably on that huge soft sofa in the game room with his superman blanket, and this adorable little kid snuggled up next to him. Yeah, that sounded nice.
“But what about Tim?” Jason’s voice said, hoarse.
Dick glanced down at Jason.
Jason looked away. “Wayne was…was grooming him!”
Dick looked over at the tiny, bright-eyed kid leaning against the fancy footboard at the end of the bed and tried to smother a smile.
“He was not!” Tim protested emphatically.
“You said he was nice to you, at Galas, you said-” Jason accused.
Dick interrupted. “Jason, I can assure you Bruce-“
Tim and Dick and Jason were suddenly all talking at the same time.
Dick stopped, sighed, and while the other two raised their voices even louder to make up for his voice’s absence, pulled out his cell phone and dialed a number. “Hey, Bruce?”
The two other boys fell suddenly silent.
Bruce’s voice sounded thick and tired. “Dick? What’s wrong?”
“Just wondering if you…lost something?”
Jason let out a startled sound.
“Don’t tell me you found him!” Bruce groaned. “How, Dick?”
“Haha, just R- just me working my magic! We’re heading your way. Be there in ten. And…you may need to clarify some things. And have a chat about communication.”
“Where was he? Does anyone else know?”
“Jason knows about my…cape.”
Dick squawked. “He what?”
“Dick. I need to know if he told anyone.”
“No, he didn’t! I’m bringing him. We’re on our way.” Dick snapped the phone shut and stared at Jason a minute, pursing his mouth. “Okay, you are coming with me. We’re going to Wayne Manor, Bruce is going to explain how he’s never going to touch you, and then you and I are going to have some prime snuggle time while you recover.”
Jason scrambled away, getting to his feet and narrowing his eyes. “…Only if Timmy comes, too! His parents aren’t here and they left him alone, for weeks -" Jason sounded absolutely scandalized.
Timmy bolted to his feet to match Jason’s stance. “What?!”
Dick couldn’t deny they both looked like they could use cuddles. Eh, two for two.
“Fine by me,” Dick acquiesced easily.
“But - but I -“ Tim stuttered, frozen. “Me? Why me, I’m - I’m not - I’m fine, I just wanted to help Jas-”
“And it’s going to help Jason if you come along!” Dick said cheerfully, stringing an arm around the kid - he was tiny, why was he so small -
Jason hesitated, looking at Dick one more time. “You’ll…you’ll be there, the whole time? You won’t leave me alone with…Wayne?”
“Not for a second, lil’ Jay,” Dick promised. “Not until you’re sure he’s safe.”
Jason glared halfheartedly at the nickname, but…
”Okay,” Jason said finally. His mouth was all hard, suspicious lines, and Dick could see hope warring with dread in his eyes, a little too weathered a look for a kid, and Dick didn’t like it, so he scooped Jason up into his arms, grinning smugly as Jason let out a startled yelp, and said, “Tally ho, Tim!”
Tim trailed along behind, a wavering look of disbelief plastered over his face.
Dick got them settled in the car (with extra blankets, because, duh), reassured Jason again, and started the car.
Alfie, you up? Dick texted.
At your service as always, Master Dick, came the answer, and Dick grinned.
Think you could have a couple cups of cocoa ready in a few?
Is that question rhetorical, or are you doubting my abilities?
Dick sent a laughing face.
It was still going to be good to see Bruce and Alfred, and it was going to be oh-so-good to be back at the Manor…
but now, with two tiny, adorable boys? This night was turning out even better than Dick was thinking.
Like, he was still going to need to have that talk with Bruce about communication, and possibly a talk about bringing random children home? But for now, Dick hopped into the driver’s seat, told Jason to stop messing with the stereo and told Tim he was allowed to actually touch things, and he turned the music on.
“What’s this?” Tim wrinkled his nose in the backseat.
“What, you’ve never listened to Abba?” Dick laughed. “Timmers, they’re classic!”
They were only a few minutes away from the Manor, but Dick turned it all the way up and started it over anyway.
If you need me, let me know, gonna be around,
Ba ba ba ba ba! Ba ba ba ba ba, take a chance on me!