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assaulting existence with improbability

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Wayne Manor is silent in a way it hasn't been for years, not since Dick came to live there. Jason didn't live here then himself, of course, but he knows his brother, and he knows how he brought light into Bruce's life along with noise into his empty mansion. Dick moved out before Jason ever moved in, but Jason isn't the most quiet guy himself. Even when reading in the library, he's snorting and snarking aloud at the characters doing stupid shit. 

Now it's so quiet in the Manor he can almost imagine he hears the drip of water down in the Cave.

Jason wonders if he'll ever be allowed down there again. Almost certainly not; he's increasingly sure his days in even the Manor are numbered. 

Bruce doesn't believe him. Bruce thinks Jason shoved Felipe Garzonas off the balcony to his death. 

Bad enough that Bruce made that assumption in the first place, but he also obviously didn't really believe him when Jason said it was an accident. His magnanimous response to Jason's protests of innocence and pleading for trust - for anything that reflects almost four years of partnership, of family, or so he thought - had been searching security footage from the few CCTV cameras that might have a view of Garzonas's secluded balcony. And of fucking course fucking none of them showed the confrontation, let alone evidence of his innocence. 

It's burning him up that Bruce even needs evidence. From his grim countenance after the CCTV search turned up nothing, Jason almost feels as if he thinks that lack proved his guilt. He could see the calculations happening behind Bruce's opaque blue eyes about whether Jason knew and took advantage of when there would be no cameras recording him. 

Jason tucks his knees up under his chin, pressing his heels into the edge of the chair, and wraps his arms around them while he stares into the middle distance. He wishes Dick would come home. He'd believe Jason is innocent, and get in one of his screaming matches with Bruce about it. For this Jason won't even be so upset as he usually is by those. But Dick is off on a stupid mission in space with his friends, and probably won't even be able to hear Jason's voicemails for weeks, let alone call back or come yell at Bruce for him. Jason's only ally is Alfie, because he's always Jason's ally, but all he's done to assert Jason's innocence was an initial, "Don't be ridiculous, Master Bruce. Master Jason would do no such thing." He's continued to be coolly disapproving towards Bruce in all their interactions and has been making Jason's favorites for dinner every night. He could never be less than appreciative of Alfred's chicken parmesan but it's hard to enjoy anything for dinner when he's eating it at a silent, usually empty dining table. Bruce keeps taking meals in the Batcave, where Jason isn't allowed now that he's "benched."

Jason knows he's really fired. Just like Dick was going to be before he pulled off the ol' "You can't fire me, I quit" and left to become Nightwing. But Dick was almost eighteen already, years older than Jason. If he left now, he'd just be on the streets again, only better off at 15 than 11 because now he has enough skill to fight off whoever tries their luck against the wrong homeless teen out of the hundreds in Crime Alley. 

This is the exact scenario he's feared on some level ever since he moved in, the fear it seemed like Bruce worked so hard to prove baseless: that Jason put one foot wrong and now this whole life he's been handed, this castle - Manor - of cards he's been building, it all comes crashing down around his ears. 

He pokes at the glazed carrots left on his plate. He didn't really want to eat the rib-eye and scalloped potatoes Alfred made for him, but Jason's access to decent meals, let alone Alfie meals, isn't long for this world, so he'll force himself to eat it. He's gonna need the extra calories soon. He'll also have to get used to not being picky about what he eats again anyway. Dumpsters aren't buffets. 

Alfred takes pity on him when Jason really can't bring himself to finish the carrots and comes to collect the plate. 

"Master Jason," Alfred says quietly, "most evenings when Master Bruce was not here, he has spent continuing the search for proof of your innocence."

"He wouldn't need it if he'd just believe me," Jason says acerbically. 

Alfie sighs. "You know Master Bruce does not easily-"

"I'm supposed to be his son." His voice breaks. 

"You are his son," Alfred says. "That is why Master Bruce has been taking this so poorly. Whatever he believes happened, he blames himself."

Jason growls. "That still requires blaming me for something I didn't do so forgive me if I don't RSVP to the pity party he's throwing himself!"

"You'd think he would learn by now that those are never well-attended," Alfred says dryly. "He will come around, Master Jason."

Fat chance, Jason thinks. Out loud he says, "He's gonna have a lot of fucking groveling to do then."

"Oh yes," Alfred agrees. "I have told him as much. I mentioned a pony may be demanded."

He snorts, standing up from the table. "For this? Try a Lamborghini."

Jason is heading upstairs to do his homework - just like decent food, his education is hanging by a thread - when the doorbell rings. Alfred comes around the corner but Jason gets there first. Who the hell has come to Wayne Manor at 8pm on a Thursday?

The world's shrimpiest child, apparently.

"Uh," Jason says.

"I knew you were innocent!" the kid shrieks. "I knew it, I knew it, I promise!"

Well. At least that's nice to hear.

In a slight trance, Jason drags the way too scrawny thing inside. He's got something small clutched inside his bony little fist. 

"Where's Batman?" the kid demands. "We need to show him."

Jason decides to go with the easy question. "Show him what?"

The kid gives him an incredulous look. "Proof you didn't kill Garzonas, what else?"

Alfred inhales sharply. Jason tries to keep his own breathing steady. "Proof? How?"

"Footage of him falling on his own, of course," the kid says. "There's nothing else Batman would believe." Nothing else, indeed. "Where is he? In the Cave?"

Who the fuck is this child.

Jason decides, you know what? He's not allowed down in the Cave, either.

"Yep," he says. "Let's go show him what you've got."

Alfred gives him a sardonic look, but does not raise any protests, which is as good as an endorsement of Jason's actions. 

The kid nods vigorously, eyes wide and luminous, like an owl. An elf owl. He trails after Jason through the Manor to the study, and gasps when he turns the grandfather clock to 10:48 and it swings open to reveal the Cave staircase.

Jason leads the way down, hands balling into fists and jaw clenching as he thinks about what may come if the kid really did somehow find evidence that the "World's Greatest Detective" (Jason is saying this as sarcastically as physically possible) didn't. He doesn't know how Bruce will respond, or how Jason will respond to that response. Despite Jason's preexisting insecurities, Batman's reaction to Garzonas's accident wasn't anything he expected. He thought they were partners, that there was trust. 

He thought they were family.

"Hey, kid." Jason nudges him. "How'd you know I was innocent?"

"You're Robin," the kid says like that's all he needs, and Jason's stomach twists unpleasantly. Not because the kid knows his identity, but because he's not sure he will be for much longer. "And besides, if you did kill Garzonas - well, he deserved it for sure, and you wouldn't be denying it like this. You'd own it and dare Batman to come up with a better reason why it was wrong than just being against the rules."

"Murder is wrong," Jason says automatically.

"Of course. So is rape, corruption, extortion, assault, and driving a woman to commit suicide, though that wasn't on the list of charges," the kid says, utterly matter-of-fact even though he's like nine. "If I'm not taking your part in this hypothetical scenario, then I agree heroes can't kill people, as a general rule , but you're not infallible. Batman has certainly acted out in rage before."

"He has?" Jason exclaims in disbelief. That's impossible, B is the very soul of discipline and restraint and control -

"Oh yes," the kid says vaguely. "It was before your time, after Dick had just left."

How the fuck does he know that. "Weren't you like, in diapers back then?" Jason asks, bemused. 

The kid makes an adorable little affronted noise. "No! I'm eleven!"

Jesus fuck. He comes up to about Jason's fucking elbow. Something besides apparently military-grade stalking is going on there.

They finally turn the corner that brings the Cave proper into view. The kid lets out the softest gasp. Down at the Batcomputer, Bruce glances up, cowl off. "Jason, you're still not -" He stops dead. "Who's that?" he growls.

"Someone who apparently did what you couldn't," Jason retorts. "Baby bird, show him." The kid's all quick movements and fragile bones.

"Baby bird?" he mumbles, but then he scampers down the stairs and ducks right under Bruce's elbow - Jason will remember his stunned expression as he utterly fails to react in time for the rest of his life - and plugs the flash drive he must have held in his fist into the Batcomputer. 

Both Bruce and Jason go rigid, waiting to see some catastrophic virus unleashed, but all that pops up is an ordinary file directory. "So, you looked at all the CCTV cameras and security streams in the area, but you didn't really do an exhaustive search of geocached cloud storage," the kid says nonchalantly, like he didn't just basically accuse Batman of being insufficiently thorough and meticulous. 

"How do you know where I already looked," Batman says tonelessly.

The kid stills. "I, uh," he says, high-pitched, "I definitely didn't crack the security on the Batserver last year!"

"What the fuck." Jason guffaws.

"I see," Bruce says, still neutral. "Please, show me what you have."

He doesn't hesitate at all before snatching the computer mouse from Bruce - Jason likes this kid more and more every second - and clicks on a file labeled "Hummingbird18."

In the foreground of the video is a yellow plastic vessel surrounded by some windowsill flowers. And in the background, still clearly visible, is Felipe Garzonas's balcony. 

And Garzonas, falling to his death while Robin is still a good five paces away. Bruce's face turns ashen. 

"This is from a hummingbird feeder camera," the kid says quietly. "It's a 24-hour stream, and all footage is stored directly in a cloud server."

"A hummingbird camera," Jason repeats. "A fucking hummingbird camera. You found that? How?" When Batman didn't, even. 

He shrugs. "I started looking after it happened. I knew Batman would cover everything obvious, so I started on more obscure avenues of inquiry. I-I'm sure you'd have found it eventually?" the kid squeaks to Batman. 

"How did you know to look," Jason interjects. "Garzonas's death was in the news but not anything about me."

"Um," the kid says. "I was there. Not when it happened, but when Batman showed up and thought you did it. I knew he was wrong," he repeats that last part fervently, and something in Jason's chest burns.

"Thanks, kid," Jason whispers. 

They should probably ask why and how in the living fuck the kid was there, but neither of them do.

"I hope you're right that I would have found it, Tim," Bruce says quietly. "But not before potentially doing irreparable damage to my relationship with my son, so I'm still very grateful for this." He turns to Jason, tears in his eyes, with no calculations behind them. "Jaylad, can you ever forgive me?" His voice breaks more than once. 

Jason shrugs, uncomfortable. "It might take a while," he admits quietly.  

Bruce exhales. "I don't care how long it takes, as long as you give me the chance to show how sorry I am for not trusting you completely, as you deserve. And I will never make that mistake again," he swears. 

Jason swallows and nods. 

"Um," the kid - Tim, apparently? How does B know that? - "how do you know my name?" Oh, hey, the kid doesn't get it either. 

"You're Tim Drake, aren't you? Jack and Janet's boy," Bruce says kindly. "Our neighbor."

"Our fucking neighbor?" Jason bursts out. "I never even thought we had neighbors!"

"Bristol neighbors," Bruce corrects wryly. "About a five minute drive up the road, isn't it?"

"Yes sir, but only a half hour walk if you cut through the woods at 62 degrees north by northwest," the kid replies, and then immediately turns red. 

"Oh my god you really are a stalker," Jason deadpans. "Do you like, hide in the bushes with a camera and take photos of us for your conspiracy board?"

Tim flushes even more and mumbles something that sounds suspiciously like "not in the bushes." He adds, more loudly, "I'm sorry. I promise I've never spied on your house. I just - thought it might be a good idea to know the quickest route to Batman's house in an emergency, just in case."

"What kind of emergency?" Bruce asks sharply. Yeah, uh, the kid's parents actually being supervillains would explain a lot here, but it makes the kid knowing their secret identities a real emergency situation by itself - 

The kid shrugs. "I don't know. Earthquake. Alien invasion. I," he falters. "I just like being prepared," he mutters.

"Well, you've come to the right place," Jason drawls. 

"Why would you need to come here during an earthquake, Tim?" Bruce asks carefully. "Where are your parents?"

Jason and Tim stiffen at the same time. Bruce can definitely also see signs of neglect at best on the neighbor kid, then. Still slightly competent as a detective. 

"They're traveling for work pretty often," Tim says calmly. Too calmly. 

Bruce hums. "Then why don't I give your nanny our house number? We'll come pick you both up in an emergency, no need to walk here." Oh god, does Bruce really think the kid doesn't have a-

"That's fine, I'll just take it now," the kid says. 

Oh god he doesn't. 

Jason is already moving subtly closer to him when Bruce says, "How about you come upstairs for dessert, Tim? It's the least of what you deserve for reminding me who my son really is." He feels himself flush and his heart lighten just a little. 

"I-I don't want to impose," Tim says nervously, and jeez, what happened to the kid who dove straight past Batman and commandeered the Batcomputer without hesitation - after he already hacked it as a ten year old!

"Super not imposing, Timmy," Jason says, slinging his arm around the kid's skinny shoulders. "B's had his head up his ass for a week now, I totally owe you for forcibly removing it, and I'm really sick of eating alone. You'll be way more fun than Bruce." 

"Well. If you really insist..." Tim sags slightly into Jason's side. 

"Maybe over dessert you can explain how you know our identities," Bruce suggests.

The kid goes stiff again and Jason throws Bruce a dirty look. "Or not, we aren't interrogating you over tiramisu."

Tim's head shoots up, eyes shining. "Tiramisu? Isn't that made with coffee?"

"Yes?" Don't little kids hate the taste of that stuff? Maybe rich kid palettes are more sophisticated by this age. Jason can't stand drinking it himself, but that's mostly because caffeine is still an addictive substance, fuck you very much. 

"Alfred will want to know all about what you showed us," Bruce adds. 

"Okay," Tim concedes. "I guess I can stay." 

He'll probably be staying forever, Jason can already tell, but he's also not about to let Bruce formally take in another stray until he's proven he can really be trusted with the one he's already got, which is currently still in question.  

"Come on, baby bird," Jason says, leading Tim back up the stairs. "You can help me and Alfie keep shaming Bruce for not believing me."

"It's what I deserve," Bruce concedes with an inclination of his head, and that admission mollifies Jason just a little bit more. 

They've got a long way to go before Jason trusts him again (ironic, isn't it?) and that's gonna really suck. But, he thinks, squeezing his arm around Tim and making him squeak, he might be able to trust someone new.