Actions

Work Header

successor

Chapter Text

 

There was somebody knocking on the door.  The whole point of getting a shitty apartment in run-down building in a moldy corner of Crime Alley was so that no one would bother him, and here he was, in broad daylight, listening to three tentative raps on his front door.

 

Jason looked down at the gun he’d just started disassembling, and slotted the pieces back into place before rising from his couch.  It was late afternoon, but Gotham was Gotham, and Crime Alley was Crime Alley and Jason knew too much about the dark corners of the world to assume that his visitor was a friendly.

 

And then he peered through the peephole and saw a kid.

 

Jason double-checked the gun before he unlocked the door and leaned against the doorframe, using his height to loom.

 

Teenager, gangly and fidgeting from foot to foot.  Couldn’t be older than sixteen.  Black hair.  Blue eyes.  Looked faintly familiar.  The kid had widened his eyes when he met Jason’s gaze, but now he was staring at floor and chewing on his lip.  He had a cloth bag in his hand.

 

“What do you want?” Jason said, flat and rough.

 

The kid darted another look at him before he thrust the bag out.  Jason resisted the automatic urge to take what was handed to him, and arched an eyebrow.  “For you,” the kid squeaked, “I didn’t—I mean, I did, but—it wasn’t supposed to be—it’s yours.”

 

Jason looked at the bag—he could see the edges of folds, fabric of some sort—and back at the kid.  “What?” he said.

 

The kid was slowly turning red.  “It’s yours.  I came to—to give it back.  I didn’t take it—well, I didn’t take this one, it’s yours, I had a different—that’s not what I—I mean—”

 

Jason took pity on the kid and took the bag from his hands.  The fabric was red, and the shade itched at his mind.  “Breathe, kid,” Jason ordered, and the kid nearly choked himself complying.  “Now, what are you talking about?”

 

“It’s yours, Jason.”

 

Jason’s fingers tightened on the gun.

 

“Excuse me?”  His voice wasn’t shaking, but every other part of him was.

 

The kid looked up at him—black hair, blue eyes, fuck—and said, quiet but determined, “Robin.  It’s yours.”

 

One part of Jason—the part that howled with fury tainted green—demanded he put a bullet between those eyes right now.  Another part of Jason was stunned, frozen in shock.  Yet another part registered the fabric of the suit wrapped in the bag, Robin-red.  And the final part muddled through the kid’s words until they made sense.

 

Jason ushered the kid inside before closing and bolting the door shut, because this wasn’t a conversation he wanted to have in the hallway wearing no mask.

 

“What the fuck,” was the first thing he managed to string together.

 

“I’m sorry,” the kid blurted out, definitely trembling now, “I never meant to take your place—I didn’t mean—if I’d known you were still alive—I’m so sorry—I just—I wanted to tell you—Robin’s yours, Jason, and I’m really, really, really—”

 

Jason had to holster the gun to slap a hand over the kid’s mouth, and the spluttering died out as the kid froze.

 

“Sit,” Jason nudged the kid towards the couch, “And breathe.”  He got the kid a glass of water before he sank down into the seat opposite.

 

“Timothy Drake,” he frowned, studying the kid’s face.  Now that he knew what he was looking for, the angles were familiar.

 

The kid nodded, shoulders hunched and hands wrapped around the glass as he stared at Jason.

 

Jason turned his attention back to the bag, drawing out the uniform—his uniform, the one he hadn’t taken to Ethiopia, the red-and-green-and-yellow suit, the black cape, the domino mask.

 

“It’s yours,” the kid whispered, “I’ve never touched, I—I thought you were—I’m sorry—”

 

“Stop apologizing,” Jason snapped.

 

The kid—Timothy—Robin—Replacement—Jason had dreamt of this very scenario.  Of ripping the R off the kid’s chest, of taking the place that had been stolen from him, of watching the kid choke on apologies as Jason took out his frustration—

 

“Your eyes are glowing.”

 

Jason shut them and exhaled shakily.  He needed to—he had to calm down.  This was not how he saw the afternoon going.  He’d just gotten back to Gotham, just started making forays into the gangs running Crime Alley after he failed to detonate the bomb under the Batmobile.  After he’d had the idea of forcing Batman to confront the Joker, of making the Replacement pay, of cleaning up Crime Alley from within.

 

“Robin’s yours.”

 

Jason had never imagined that he could get it all back.  Not after he’d been abandoned the last time, left behind and forgotten.

 

“Is it the Lazarus Pit?” the kid asked curiously, “Because there was a funeral and everything, and I don’t know how Bruce was tricked—”

 

“Kid,” Jason bit out, “Shut up.”  He didn’t want to hear about Bruce.  He didn’t want to hear about his stupid family and his death and everything he’d missed for three years.

 

“I—oh.  Sorry,” the kid winced.

 

Jason took a couple of deep breaths—until he no longer had the urge to fit his hands around the kid’s scrawny neck and squeeze—and regarded Tim with an even stare, “Why are you here?”

 

“To give you back the suit,” Tim said, blinking at him in bemusement.

 

“Did it occur to you that I know exactly where the Manor is, and I could’ve taken it if I wanted it back?” Jason asked, like it had ever occurred to him.

 

Home.  It was right there.  He knew the way.  He could just…go back.  No one was stopping him.  Why did it feel like someone was stopping him?

 

“I just,” the kid fidgeted, and went back to staring at his hands.  “You were my Robin,” Tim said, in a tone of voice so low Jason barely heard him, “I didn’t want—I thought you might be…upset.  And I just wanted—I didn’t want you to feel like—I wasn’t your replacement.  I was just a…placeholder.  Because—because Batman needed a Robin and I’m so sorry for stepping into your shoes.  It was always going to be temporary.  I just—I wanted you to know that.”

 

Jason stared at him.  ‘You were my Robin’ filled his head on a loop.  He’d wanted to hurt this kid.  He had planned to break his bones and shoot him and leave him terrified and screaming and—

 

“How did you find me?” Jason croaked out, in lieu of following that particular train of thought.

 

“There was a security camera,” Tim said, “And you took off your helmet for a second—you had your mask on, but I—I recognized your face.  And then I found you.”

 

“And then you found me,” Jason said flatly, “Just like that.”

 

Tim shrugged, “I’m good at finding people.”

 

“Really.”

 

“I figured out who Batman and Robin were, all by myself,” the kid said, smiling slightly.

 

“Oh, really?” Jason raised an eyebrow, “When?”

 

That was definitely a smirk.  “I was nine.”

 

Jason let out a low whistle.  He hadn’t found out until he’d literally stumbled upon Bruce climbing out of the Cave.

 

“Finding you was easier,” Tim said, “With the Batcomputer’s resources.  And Oracle, but I didn’t tell her who I was looking for.”

 

Jason squinted at him, “Who’s Oracle?”

 

Tim blinked, “Barbara?  Didn’t you—”

 

“Batgirl?” Jason frowned, “Why did she change her name?  What happened?”

 

Tim went pale.  Not even slightly pale, but full-on sheet-white and Jason tensed, ready to catch the kid and keep him from cracking his skull open if he fainted.  “She got injured,” he said in an airy tone of voice that didn’t match his sudden terror, “I don’t really want to talk about it.”

 

Jason stared at him, but didn’t press.  He dropped his gaze back to the suit in his lap.  His suit.  He could have Robin back.  He could pretend like the past three years had never happened, like Batman had rescued him, like—

 

Like a clown hadn’t ripped him apart so thoroughly that Jason still hadn’t found all the pieces.

 

Jason slumped back.  He could feel the rage draining out of him, the mindless fury and shrieking wrath.  The kid had given it back.  Robin was his again.  Robin was his but he still felt hollow inside, which meant that the problem had never been them.

 

The problem had been him the whole time.

 

He’d been planning to kill and break and make them all suffer and now, with his old costume back, with his old life so close he could taste it, it was like he’d broken through a fog.

 

He was so angry.  He was so furious.  At the fifteen-year-old that went running in without backup.  At the seventeen-year-old that decided to listen to Talia al Ghul.  At the eighteen-year-old that placed a bomb on the Batmobile with every intention of pressing the trigger.

 

What was he doing?

 

Jason picked up the domino mask.  Plain black.  He’d gotten a new one in red, unable to stomach wearing the same mask he’d died in.  Or unable to betray a hint of allegiance to the colors he was no longer worthy of.

 

“I’m sorry,” the kid whispered again, “I’m not your replacement.”

 

He turned the mask around and leaned forward, pressing it to skin and sealing it down.  The kid stared at him, frozen to the spot.

 

“No,” Jason said, forcing the ghost of a smile on his face, “You’re my successor.”

 

The kid unsealed the mask easily, pulling it off his face and staring at Jason with wide blue eyes, “Jason, what—”

 

“Robin is magic, kid,” Jason said, standing up and depositing the bag back in Tim’s lap, “Remember that.  Also—stay away from clowns and crowbars.”  Until I put a bullet in the fucker’s head, he finished mentally.

 

Tim flinched at the reminder, but hastily straightened.  “Jason, I’m not—Robin is yours, I can’t possibly be—”

 

“You can.  You are.  Thanks for the offer, baby bird, but I can’t be Robin again.”  Jason gestured to the gun, to the apartment, to the red helmet sitting on a table, “Not after this.”

 

Not with blood on his hands.

 

“No, Jason, you’ll always be Robin,” Tim stood up, his eyes flashing, “I’m not really—”

 

“Robin is light,” Jason said, “The hope in the darkness.  The brightness in Batman’s shadow.  And that’s what you are.”

 

“But you—

 

Jason stepped forward and gripped the kid’s shoulders—Tim went quiet and still, blinking up at him in surprise.  “I’m not brightness, or light, or magic,” Jason said softly, trying hard to keep his fingers from tightening, “Before you showed up at my door, baby bird, I was intending to hurt you.”

 

The kid didn’t tear himself away from Jason.  Didn’t even flinch.  He stared up at him in trusting faith and Jason felt something in his heart burn, ripping away from the green that ensnared everything around him.

 

“I’m a monster, kid,” Jason said softly, willing him to believe it, “I came back wrong.  Someone needs to put the terror back into this city, and Batman’s not up for the job.  I can’t be Robin.”

 

Tim’s face scrunched up, eyes narrowing and lips thinning, and Jason let go, stepping back with a pang of fond amusement.  Self-righteous and stubborn.  He would fit right in.

 

“Fine,” Tim said, his expression slipping to something more calculating, “But then you have to teach me.”

 

“Teach you what?  How to shoot a gun?”

 

“How to be Robin.”

 

Jason laughed.  “Go to the Golden Boy for that, Timbo,” he said, shaking his head, “You don’t need lessons from me.”

 

“I already got lessons from Dick,” Tim said, his expression resolute, “But I don’t care.  You said I’m your successor, so I want to learn from you.”

 

Jason stopped to stare at the kid, who was watching Jason with a determined glare, crossing his arms and standing his ground.  Jason had been in Gotham one week before the kid had found him—he was never going to be able to go to ground.

 

Jason considered just shooting him and dropping him back off at the Cave, and groaned.

 

Tim’s face split into a grin, the little shit.

 


 

The kid stayed to hound him, asking questions so quickly Jason could barely keep up and seemingly unconcerned with Jason’s flare-ups and his eyes pulsing green.  By the time it grew dark, Jason was scrambling at an excuse that would allow him to kick the kid out without those blue eyes going wide and teary, and he seized upon the dying light.

 

“Aren’t you supposed to head out on patrol soon?” Jason asked a little desperately.

 

Tim cocked his head towards the window, “Um, no, I came here to give you Robin back, remember?”

 

“Right, but isn’t Batman going to wonder where you are?”

 

Tim blinked at him, “I told Bruce I was quitting before I came here.”

 

Jason stared at him.  “You told Batman that you were giving Robin back to me?” he asked, raising his eyebrows because he didn’t see that going over well.  Batman wouldn’t have left the kid out of his sight.

 

“No, just that I was leaving.  I wanted you to be able to tell him on your own,” Tim said, staring at the floor again, “And I didn’t know if you had a reason for keeping it a secret.”

 

“And he didn’t ask for an explanation?”

 

“Oh, I just left a note.”

 

Jason froze.

 

“You…left a note,” he said, his voice strangled.

 

“Yes, I told him I was fine and it was okay, I wasn’t going to tell anyone about Batman,” Tim shrugged, still pondering the wood grain like it was a Picasso, “And I left my phone behind, so you don’t have to worry that he’ll track me here.”

 

Jason sat down suddenly, his legs wobbling.

 

“Jason?” Tim said, alarmed, hovering over him, “Are you okay?”  Jason buried his head in his hands.

 

“You left him a note,” Jason said, his voice muffled, “Saying that you were leaving.  And you left your phone behind.  And then you vanished.”

 

“…I didn’t vanish, Jason, what—”

 

“You need to call Bruce,” Jason said, because he wanted Batman to suffer, but this was a little too on the nose, even for him.  “Before he has a heart attack.”

 

“Why would he have a heart attack?” Tim asked, confused, “I don’t live at Wayne Manor, Jason, I don’t think he’s—”

 

Jason made a sharp, inarticulate noise and dug his own phone out, dialing a number he’d been forced to memorize a long time ago.  It rang—once, twice, thrice—

 

“Wayne residence, this is Alfred speaking.”

 

Jason’s throat had closed up.

 

“Hello?”

 

He couldn’t breathe.

 

“Hello?”

 

How could he have forgotten Alfred?

 

The line ended with a click.

 

“Jason?” Tim was hovering near him, watching him carefully as his fingers fidgeted with the hem of his hoodie.

 

Jason hit redial and shoved the phone at Tim.  “Tell Bruce you’re safe,” he ordered, “Before the man has a breakdown.”

 

Tim gave him a strange look before his protests were cut off by the call connecting.  “Hi, Alfred,” he said, biting his lip again, “Yes, I’m fine—hi, Bruce—I’m fine—I didn’t—I’m with J—” Jason made a sharp, slicing motion.  “I—I’m with no one!”  Jason rolled his eyes at the less-than-stellar save.  “I borrowed a phone from someone to call.  Uh-huh.  Yes.  I’m fine.  Okay.  Bye, Bruce.”

 

Tim ended the call and gave the phone back to him, exasperated.  “Happy now?” the kid groused.

 

“Ecstatic,” Jason said, turning to head towards the kitchen, “Now scram, kid.  You’ve been here for hours.”

 

“But I—”

 

You may not have patrol, but I certainly do, and I’m not letting you stay in my safehouse unsupervised.”

 

“Not much of a safehouse,” the kid grumbled, “Seeing as I found it in two days.”

 

“You’re a stalker, baby bird,” Jason raised his eyebrows in reproach, “And shoo.  Go back to your nest.  Tell Bruce it was a mistake and you’re going to be Robin again.”

 

Tim fidgeted, his gaze dropping back to the floor.  Jason followed his stare, unsure of what could keep the kid’s attention there.  “Are you sure?” the kid asked in a small voice.

 

The green swelled, but it wasn’t aimed at the kid and the familiar hiss of fury was almost…warm.  “I’m sure, baby bird,” Jason said, dropping his tone to something gentler, “You deserve it.”

 

Tim looked up, his eyes impossibly wide, and somehow—between one breath and the next—Jason’s ribs were being constricted by a deceptively tight grip.  “I’m so glad you’re alive,” the kid breathed out, his voice hoarse, and Jason slowly curled his arms around him.

 

“Me too?” Jason tried.

 

Tim choked on a chuckle, and squeezed harder.  “You’ll always be my Robin,” he said, his voice barely audible.

 

Jason felt his heart clench.  “Well, then you’ll always be mine,” he said, trying to keep his voice level.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

Bruce wandered down to the Cave, expecting to see Tim already ready to go out.  The kid hadn’t lost one bit of the enthusiasm that had made him hunt down Batman in the first place, and it made something in Bruce’s heart ache every time he saw it.

 

He passed by a glass case and a torn uniform and forced himself to look at it.  A good soldier.  He had to remember.  He couldn’t fail again.  It would break him completely.

 

Tim wasn’t anywhere in the Cave.  Bemused, Bruce headed over to the Batcomputer—perhaps he was running late?  Or maybe he was sick, he should ask Alfred if Tim had left a message.

 

There was a note sitting next to the Batcomputer, a ruled piece of paper folded sideways.  Bruce picked it up and unfolded it, absently noting Tim’s handwriting before the contents of the note registered.

 

‘Bruce.  I’m sorry, I can’t be Robin anymore.  Thank you for everything.  I promise I won’t tell anyone about Batman. —Tim.’

 

Bruce didn’t realize he was falling until he sank into the chair, the note fluttering in his shaking hands.  No.  Not again.  Not again.

 

He pulled up the tracking system on the Batcomputer—all the trackers for the Robin suit were still in the Cave, the tracker for Tim’s phone showed him at his house.  Okay.  He was still in Gotham.  Bruce hadn’t failed yet.

 

He ran out of the house in a rush, choosing the first car he laid eyes on to make the short drive over to Drake property, dialing Tim’s number as he went.  It rang and rang and rang—and clicked to voicemail.  Another time.  Same result.

 

Bruce barely managed to turn the car off before he jumped out—he rang the doorbell, he pounded on the door, he called for Tim.  No answer.

 

Dread was sinking into his gut, cold and terrible.

 

Bruce picked the lock and made his way inside, calling Tim’s phone for a third time.  A faint sound of music accompanied the call and Bruce made his way through the house, following the sound—

 

And saw a phone vibrating on a desk right before the call cut to voicemail.

 

“Tim?” Bruce called out, his voice hoarse.  There was no response.

 

Not again, his mind screamed.

 

Too late, another part hissed, always too late.

 

Bruce swallowed.  He needed to tell Alfred.  He needed to call Dick.  They needed to find Tim before—before his nightmare came back to life.

 


 

“Master Bruce,” Alfred said, his voice wavering, “The phone—it’s Master Timothy.”

 

“Patch him through,” Bruce said, coming to a halt on the rooftop and turning away from the street, “Track the call.”

 

I’m fine,” Tim’s voice crackled.

 

“Tim?”

 

Hi, Bruce,” he said.  No signs of distress, no code words, nothing to indicate that anything was wrong.

 

“What happened?” Bruce growled, “Where are you?”

 

I’m fine,” Tim repeated, sounding a bit confused.  No environmental noise, so presumably he was inside somewhere.  “I didn’t—I’m with J—” His voice cut out abruptly, and Bruce felt his stomach plummet.

 

I—I’m with no one,” Tim said unconvincingly.  Hostage?  Someone was listening in on the call.  “I borrowed a phone from someone to call.

 

“Are you safe?” Bruce asked.  They had to keep him on the line until the tracking could pinpoint his location.  “Are you in Gotham?”

 

Yes.  I’m fine.”  That was Tim’s typical irritation, but Bruce could tell he was hiding something.  There was a prickle going down his spine.

 

J. J—what? Who?  Bruce reminded himself that the Joker was in Arkham, locked up where he couldn’t hurt anyone, but the rising terror clawing at his throat didn’t quite let it stick.

 

“I’d like to talk to you when you get home,” Bruce said, keeping his voice level.

 

Okay.  Bye, Bruce.”  The line cut out.

 

“We have a location,” Alfred said, “It appears to be in Park Row.”

 

Bruce felt his stomach clench.  “I’ll meet you there,” Nightwing chimed in with the faint sound of a grapple firing.  Bruce took out his own and turned to the part of the city that had taken his parents from him, that had given him a son only to tear it away.

 

He would not allow it to take Tim.

 


 

He thought that the kid would’ve left by now, but he made that wide-eyed pleading expression when Jason had started getting things ready for dinner and Jason had just given up.  Tim had taken over cleaning the dishes—so someone had taught him manners, they just hadn’t taught him the concept of ‘overstaying your welcome’—and Jason went into his room to get changed into his armor and suit.

 

He was not going to fall for those eyes again, he was going to send the baby bird back to its nest and plan for this sudden rearrangement in his goals.  Crime Alley still needed Red Hood to clean its act up, but he didn’t need to go after Robin to do it.  In fact, if he could convince Tim to look the other way while he snuck into the Cave for some intelligence—

 

There was a thud and a muffled shout.  Jason turned the corner of his apartment, helmet in hand, and froze.

 

Tim stared at him from the kitchen sink, hands dripping with suds, eyes wide and anxious.  The dark patch of shadow next to him swiveled to face Jason, before going equally still.  The black-and-blue vigilante easing through the window had frozen mid-step, gaze flickering around the scene.

 

Jason curled his hands into fists and exhaled through his nose.  “I thought you said they couldn’t track you,” he said, keeping his voice deliberately light.

 

Batman took a step towards him, but Jason ignored him.  This was his apartment, his home, it was supposed to be safe—

 

Breathe in, breathe out.

 

“I—I don’t think they tracked—” Right.  The phone call.  Jason should’ve sent the kid packing after that, he knew Bruce would’ve been frantic, it was obvious that he’d tracked the call.

 

“What’s going on?” Nightwing asked slowly, slipping fully inside, “B?”

 

Batman was still staring at him.  Jason took a deep breath.  “Get out,” he said, and was pleasantly surprised when the words came out level.

 

“I don’t understand—”

 

“This is my apartment.”  Technically.  But Jason Todd was dead, so everything he owned was prefaced with technically.  “And you’re trespassing.  Get out.”

 

Nightwing stared at him, stared at Batman, and finally swiveled his gaze to Tim.  “Tim—”

 

“Tim was invited inside.”  And then refused to leave.  “You were not,” Jason said bitingly, “Get.  Out.

 

Nightwing turned back towards him.  “Jason?” he said softly, hands raising, taking a step forward—

 

Jason stumbled back, his fingers white from how hard he was gripping his helmet.  He started to shake—the fog that had once muted his emotions disappeared like it’d never been there, and he couldn’t stand still under the force of Nightwing’s stunned surprise, under the weight of Batman’s heavy stare, he was buckling and they hadn’t even thrown a punch.

 

Leave,” Jason snarled, and winced when his voice cracked.

 

Nightwing took another step forward and Jason jerked back, forgetting that there was a wall behind him and painfully cracking his head against the corner.  Jason hissed, lurching away from the wall, and then staggered back three steps because Batman was suddenly in front of him.

 

“Leave,” Jason said, no longer trying to keep his voice steady, “You’re—breaking and entering—get out—

 

“Little Wing?”

 

“Don’t,” Jason hissed, whirling on him, “Don’t you dare call me that, not after—don’t you fucking dare, Dick, you weren’t there, you—”

 

Nightwing stumbled back a step like he’d been shot.  Batman—Batman eased his cowl off and for the first time in three years, Jason was looking at Bruce, at unfamiliar lines on a familiar face, at narrowed blue-gray eyes and a blank expression.

 

“Jay?”  And it wasn’t a Batman growl, it was the voice of the man that had tucked him into bed and argued about literature and smiled when Jason cracked a joke—and Jason couldn’t do this, couldn’t be here—the helmet slipped from nerveless fingers as he stumbled back another step, shaking—he had a finger on the trigger of the bomb and he saw Batman and he couldn’t do it—his knees hit the floor, sharp bursts of pain—

 

“Stop it!”  A warm body, standing between him and the cape that signified safety, security, home—that signified danger, threat, terror—and Jason clutched at the lifeline he’d been offered.  “Stop crowding him.”

 

“You knew?  Tim, how long—”

 

“A couple of days.”

 

“Why didn’t you tell us?!”

 

“Because he didn’t want you to know.”

 

Jason squeezed his eyes shut, burying his face in something soft and warm, the hem of a shirt twisting underneath his fingers.

 

“Tim, it’s not—it can’t be—how?”

 

“I don’t know.  The Lazarus Pit?”

 

Jason shook his head silently from where it was still hidden in Tim’s shirt, because he’d been alive before acid green had eaten up all his senses.

 

“Not the Lazarus Pit?”

 

“I don’t understand—”

 

“You need to go,” Tim said, resolute, “He doesn’t want you here.  If he wanted to talk to you, he knows where you are.”

 

“He’s my son.”  And that was the Batman growl, that was too close, that was angry and hurt and Jason had nowhere to run—

 

“You’re scaring him.”

 

A sudden, hushed silence.  Jason knew he was breathing too fast and too shallow, but he couldn’t figure out how to stop.  The green was far out of reach, anger locked away by fear and shame and the sick curl of disappointment because he’d failed again and Batman didn’t want him and Bruce didn’t want him and—

 

“Jason?”  Quieter, softer, further away.  Jason cracked open his eyes and peered out from behind Tim—Bruce was sitting on the floor, staring at him and—

 

Those were tears in his eyes.

 

Bruce was crying.

 

Nightwing—Dick, he’d taken off his mask—was pressed against the far wall, looking at Jason like a desert traveler looked at an oasis.  Hopeful and desperate and terrified.

 

“Jay,” Bruce said quietly, “You’re alive.”  His voice broke on the words, his hand raising before faltering, like he was trying to reach out to Jason.

 

I’m a monster, Jason remembered distinctly, I came back wrong.  When Bruce realized that, he would leave.  He would turn his back and walk away.  And it would hurt all the more for it.

 

“Jason?” Tim said quietly.  Dick and Bruce weren’t getting any closer, but they also weren’t leaving.  And there was no way a kid, Robin or not, was going to be able to move Batman if he didn’t want to be moved.

 

There were stress lines around Bruce’s face.  The tension and anxiety—he’d come for Tim, he’d been worried about Tim, he had—why was he staring at Jason?

 

“Jason,” Tim twisted in Jason’s grip, until he was crouched on the floor facing him.  His shoulders blocked out Bruce and Dick, and Jason focused on the kid.  “Jason, they’re not going to hurt you,” Tim said softly.

 

And how did Tim know that?

 

“They miss you very much,” Tim whispered.  Jason leaned forward, until his forehead hit the kid’s collarbone, and exhaled shakily, focusing on the soft heartbeat pulsing under his head.  “I wasn’t—Jason, I know you said—I’m not your replacement.  Not for Robin.  And certainly not as—not—Jason, you’ll always be a part of the family.”

 

There was a soft, choked sound.  “Jaybird?” Dick said tremulously.

 

“I’m not his son,” Tim said into Jason’s ear, barely audible, “You are.  You always will be.”

 

Sincerity.  Ringing of truth.  And there was a wealth of hurt in those words—Jason tightened his grip on the baby bird and raised his gaze.  Both Bruce and Dick were watching him, identical heartbroken expressions on their faces.

 

Maybe—maybe he could—if he just—maybe they didn’t—maybe—

 

Jason raised a single hand and they took the invitation.

 

He thought Bruce would be the first one to move, but Dick crashed into them, arms wrapping so tightly that Jason was momentarily unable to breathe.  “Jason,” Dick breathed out, his voice choked, and Jason didn’t have the time to recover before another set of arms wrapped around them, warm and secure.

 

“Jay-lad,” Bruce rumbled, and Jason finally let the building tears drop.

 

Tim squirmed in his grasp, apparently intending to extricate himself, but Jason held on tighter, suddenly aware of exactly why Batman had taken one look at the kid swinging a tire iron at him and took him home.

 

“Jason—”

 

“Baby bird,” Jason said softly, not letting go.  He was enveloped in family and it felt like home.  “Little brother.”

 

Tim stopped breathing, but Jason didn’t move and Dick didn’t move and Bruce didn’t move and Tim finally relaxed, inch by inch, his tears dripping into Jason’s hair.

 

“Thank you,” the kid said, hoarse and choked, like Jason wasn’t the one supposed to be thanking him.

 

Home.  Family.  And at least for this moment, nothing else mattered.