They said: It's an emergency, Jason .
We need you to come to the manor ASAP, he was told.
Richard has gotten himself in trouble again.
And sure, maybe Nightwing encountering a magic-user who somehow de-aged him back to toddlerhood was an emergency, but not one that necessitated calling in the Red Hood. He was not a baby-sitter, dammit! But no, with the rest of the family out taking care of the magician and Alfred away for a well-deserved rest for the weekend, there was really no one else they could call on.
So Jason got himself over to Wayne Manor, where he found that someone had already hauled out a positively ancient high chair and plonked Dick down in it, giving him a handful of Cheerios to keep him distracted. Jason rolled his eyes. Clearly, parenting abilities were still something Bruce lacked in.
Jason sat down at the kitchen table with a heavy sigh, watching Dick meticulously pick up one Cheerio at a time, examine it with all of the focus a toddler could manage, and then shove all of his fingers into his mouth. “You're lucky you're so cute,” he grumbled.
Dick giggled and waved one slobber-covered hand. “Jay!”
“Hey, Dickie. Enjoying your cereal?” Jason asked. He couldn't help but grin as his (normally older) brother babbled gleefully and stuffed another piece of food in his mouth. It was the most he'd seen Dick genuinely smile in... quite a while, to be honest.
He'd be lying if he said it didn't warm his heart to watch those big blue eyes light up at the sight of him, to hear Dick giggle and greet him with such enthusiasm. Sure, he could do without the drool, but nothing in Jason's life had ever been perfect.
“Hi, Dickie,” Jason said, the same as he had the last few times Dick called for him. He glanced at the tray, where only a few Cheerios remained. “Ready for more food?”
Dick's face scrunched up a little and Jason felt a fleeting moment of panic over whether or not he was making use of his diaper. The moment passed as Dick burst out with: “No! Milk, please!”
“Alright, I can do that. I hope,” Jason muttered, eyeing the dollar store bags that had been dropped on the kitchen counter. He kind of dreaded to think what they picked up there. Useful stuff, hopefully, but he wasn't going to hold his breath.
He stood up to explore the bags, sorting through everything and putting it into neat piles. Diapers and wipes went together. Food was another pile. The toys he stuffed into one bag, rolling his eyes at how overfull it was.
Seriously? Dick would only be a toddler for a few hours. The toys were unnecessary.
On second thought, Jason took out the elephant plush and set it aside.
Notably, there were no extra clothes and the only cup he found was one of the cheap ones where the lids never fit correctly and tended to leak all over everything. “At least it's something,” he muttered, taking it to the sink so he could thoroughly clean it out. He didn't question whether or not there would be milk in the refrigerator when he went to open it – the kitchen and its contents were Alfred's domain and he kept it well stocked with everything they needed.
“Knew I could count on you, A,” he murmured when he found the milk exactly where he expected it to be. He'd have to get the man something nice for his birthday. “Alright, Dickie, I've got your milk.”
Jason turned back to the highchair and void it found of one child.
“Fuck!” he swore explosively, dropping to his knees to begin his search for Dick. He didn't have to look far, because Dick was happily crawling around under the table.
The toddler squealed in delight when he saw Jason. “Look!”
And before Jason could do anything, Dick lowered his head to the floor and rolled forward, giggling all the while. When Jason said nothing, he frowned and tried again, with a little more forceful: “Jay, look!”
“I- yeah, I see. You clever little acrobat,” Jason said, internally cursing himself for overlooking that fact. “That's really good, Dickie. You climb down from your highchair too?”
“Alright, well, I need to put you back in there so you can drink your milk.”
To Jason's alarm, Dick's lower lip immediately began to wobble and his big blue eyes grew wet with unshed tears.
“Or not!” he loudly announced before Dick could start sobbing. (Yeah, he wasn't dealing with that. If Dick didn't like the highchair, he didn't need to be in the highchair.) “You can just... sit with me at the table.”
And that was where Replac- Tim found them when he returned to the manor, freshly showered and looking more tired than Jason had ever seen him. The teen didn't hesitate on his way to the coffee pot, where he bustled around to make a fresh pot.
“Have you ever heard of a thing called sleep?” Jason asked, his voice heavy with sarcasm.
“I have work to do. I'll sleep in the morning.”
(The clock above the stove read: 3:46.)
“Right,” Jason muttered doubtfully. “Are you at least going to tell me what the fuck is going on? Did Bruce catch that magician or not?”
Tim strummed his fingertips on the countertop. “We found her. Batman and Robin are currently escorting her to Zatanna, since she's better equipped to handle this.”
Jason narrowed his eyes. “And what about Dick?”
Time didn't look at him. “Dick's fine. The spell wears off after twenty-four hours.”
Jason felt a tiny hand tug on his shirt and he looked down at Dick, who nearly bopped him in the nose with his empty sippy cup. He took it and was about to ask if Dick wanted more, but the child settled in with his face pressed against Jason's shirt, his eyes starting to droop like he was about to fall asleep.
There was the clear sound of a camera shutter and Jason snarled as he watched Tim unashamedly hold up his phone and take a second picture. The teen smirked at him.
“That's going to be my new background. And I'm definitely sending it to everyone. Steph's going to be so jealous she's missing this,” Tim teased.
“I am going to destroy everything you love,” Jason threatened.
Tim snorted in amusement as he slipped his phone back into his pocket. He turned away and busied himself with making a cup of coffee exactly the way he liked it: with just a spoonful of sugar and a little bit of cream.
Normally, Jason would have already been out of his seat and halfway through smashing Tim's phone to pieces and maybe delivering some creative threats along the way, but he didn't feel like upsetting Dick and dealing with the crying that would result from the violence. And so he sat there, stewing in his anger, vowing to take his vengeance when Tim would least expect it. (Perhaps he could start by mixing his precious coffee with dirt? Childish, yes, but also effective.)
Tim left soon after, though whether he was off to the Batcave or his room Jason didn't know or care enough to find out. He focused on Dick instead.
Dick, who was sound asleep against his chest, his breathing perfectly even, one hand curled into the fabric of Jason's shirt.
In less than twenty-four hours he'd be back to his usual annoying self.
Jason made sure there was no one else around to bear witness to his moment of weakness and then bowed his head to kiss the top of Dick's. He supposed that he could stick around and make sure his brother turned back like the magician promised.
In fact, the more he thought about it the more sure he became that leaving Dick in the care of Bruce would be a huge mistake. Maybe if Alfred were around it'd be different. (He spent half of a second contemplating whether or not to call the man, but decided against ruining the one and only vacation he'd ever heard of Alfred taking.)
“I'll keep you safe until you turn back, Dickie,” he promised.
Jason could handle being in the manor for that long. And if it turned out he couldn't, then he'd just take Dick with him. He had at least one safe house that was in decent enough shape to keep a toddler around.
Well, if he was going to torment himself with Bruce's presence for that long, he might as well get something out of it.
What else could he do aside from putting dirt in Tim's coffee...?