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haven't been the best of sons

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Tim leaves Gotham for a little while and everything seems to go to shit almost immediately.

Between the random structure appearing in the sky that seemed to glide none-too-gracefully towards Gotham Harbor before disappearing completely, and the mass panic that was sure to ensue, Tim wasn’t sure exactly where he should start; attempt damage control by looking for anyone caught up in debris or swoop down to the ground and help ferry people to an uncompromised area. He’d suited up without a plan for once in his life, surveying the city from the rooftops the way he imagined a fledgling Batman had.

He had never received a notification for help, however, despite notifying Bruce that he was back in the city. Something was wrong.

Not just with Gotham, anyone with eyes knew that. Something in the family was wrong.

“Drake, you need to come with me, now.”

“Hey Robin, glad to see you’re back from your tenure with the Teen Titans.” He said, sarcasm dripping from his words as he turned, spotting Damian perched on the concrete ledge of the side parallel to the side of the rooftop Tim was facing. When he did that, he almost looked like a fun-sized Batman.

“Drake, we do not have time for your frivolous conversation. Father-” Damian stops, correcting himself, “Batman is doing something- I’m afraid he is going to break his vow.”

Tim’s eyebrows shot up at Damian’s admission. “You’re serious?”

“Your doubt is not helping us stop Batman before he does something he will most certainly regret later, Red Robin.” Damian sneered, before his voice softened, almost as if he doubted what he was saying; “He’s going to kill the Red Hood.”

Tim was already on his feet, running over to Damian at this point. His muscles felt wound up, ready to spring at any moment as his veins filled with adrenaline.

Not, ‘Father is going to kill Jason’, because everyone knew Damian’s opinion of his middle brothers. Either that, or he needed to separate himself from this. He needed distance from what was happening.

“Where are they?” He asked, ready to spring past Damian if it meant getting there faster.

Before he could get an answer, if he was ever going to receive one, a familiar yelp echoed over the usual honks and horns of the city. Tim would hazard a guess in the general direction of the yelp along with Damian’s less-than-helpful; ‘That way’ with a casual flick of his wrist in a certain direction. Tim was off, already over a rooftop or two when he spotted it; a scene he had seen thousands of times before.

It was Batman, hunched over the body of a would-be villain, except this time it wasn’t a villain; it was Jason, and Bruce’s fists were shaking with rage as he furiously ripped the red bat symbol off of Red Hood’s chest. Tim was quickly closing the gap between them as Batman grabbed Hood by his helmet, what little of it was still left, dragging Jason across the rooftop. He didn’t fight, he had gone completely limp- and Tim wasn’t sure if it was because he was mercifully unconscious or had just given up.

He was close, so close Bruce should hear him coming, but he doesn’t stop what he was already in the middle of, so Tim had to stop him, he reaches out an arm, he opens his mouth to say something--

“Enough!” He bellowed, like a parent who had enough of their child throwing a tantrum. Like Batman, when he had enough of the Joker’s antics.

He barrelled into Batman with force he didn’t even know he had, even when he felt as though he were traveling in slow motion- as if this was the slowest he’d ever travelled across the rooftops, and he and Batman were knocked sideways. Bruce fell, his footing off-kilter, but Tim stuck the landing. Robins were always good about landing on their feet.

He jolts, bolting over to Jason’s crumpled body, the former having curled in on himself in the brief respite Tim had managed to buy for him. Their bodies collide as if Tim were attempting to body-check the other, but rather, he was trying to use himself as a human shield, a thin, fleshy curtain making a vain attempt to protect someone from Batman’s wrath.

The Batman was back on his feet in a heartbeat, staring at Tim, who stared right back. “That’s enough, Batman.” Tim spoke, not as loud as before. His words were pointed, like knives; “He’s had enough.”

Tim waits, body poised over his would-be brother’s to take the hit- but it never comes. Instead, he looks up to see Batman, now drawn back several feet, just looking at them. His expression is unreadable.

“Tim-”

“Don’t. I don’t care about whatever excuse you’re going to use.”

“Father.” Damian’s voice carried across the rooftop. Tim had almost forgotten it was Damian who had come to alert him already, the Boy Wonder forgotten as soon as he saw just what Batman was intending to do. “Please, I-” His voice wavered, the boy sounded unsure of what he should say next. It was an odd emotion to ascribe to Damian, uncertainty. It was hard to imagine. “I was worried.”

The Batman’s shoulders didn’t just relax, they slumped, as if defeated by the admission hidden in the inflection of Damian’s voice. ‘I was worried’ was an admonishment of what Bruce had done, an accusation that he was losing it; the manifestation of the idea that, if they had not stopped him, he would have killed Jason.

“There is a disturbance below us. Whatever was in the sky has driven people into a panic. What do you recommend?” The boy quipped, almost as if he were trying to divert attention away from what had just happened.

“He doesn’t just get to walk away.” Damian’s ploy doesn’t work. “He killed Oswald Cobblepot.”

The revelation fills Tim’s belly with a slick, queasy feeling, like eels sliding through his insides. He feels sick. But this was a side of Bruce he’d never seen before, something inside of him that would drive him to beat Jason with such ferocity. In his tenure as Robin, he had seen Bruce use brutality, but he hadn’t seen it like this.

“You don’t know that.” Damian pipes up once again, rebellion filling his tone, the familiar haughty, holier-than-thou excitement filling his voice once more; “He’s in surgery.”

It doesn’t make Tim any less nervous, it doesn’t make him any less afraid that Bruce might turn around and drop him for shielding Jason from his wrath, but it does distract Bruce for a moment. Something in his face- what little of it was visible from under the cowl- changed. He looked over at Damian, then back to Tim, where he still propped himself over Jason, arms shaking not from effort, but from nerves. He hated it.

Villains didn’t make him shake. The Batman’s gaze made him shake.

“We’re talking about this later.”

“I don’t doubt it, Batman.”

“Father.” Damian was the saving grace of tonight, as odd as that was. He was going to have to get the kid something nice for it. Like a Cheese Viking arcade machine. “Batman. People below need us.”

“Hh.” Was the only sound Batman made, turning completely from the hunched forms of Red Hood and Red Robin.

Only after the shadow of the bat disappeared completely from the rooftop, flying to the ground below, did Tim pull back, slumping on his knees next to Jason. The other man had barely moved at all during the entire altercation, fingers half-clawed, eyes half shut. Tim was certain he was in shock, or in extreme pain, or both.

“I expect updates, Drake.” But when Tim turned to say something to Damian, the boy had disappeared just as quickly as Batman would on Commissioner Gorden.

The young vigilante sighed, turning back to Jason’s crumpled body, curled in on himself like a dying arachnid. He didn’t dare attempt to shake him, it would jostle anything that might have been severely damaged by Batman’s onslaught. Instead, he said, quietly; “Jason?”

There came something, barely audible, soft and soaked in pain. A moan, so quiet and delicate it didn’t even sound as if it came from him, it couldn’t have come from the Red Hood, who was all hard edges and sharp points.

“Jason I’m gonna be real with you- I’m gonna need your help. I can carry you but you’ll need to help me out a little.”

Slowly, painfully slowly, Tim manhandles the much larger man down from the roof to the sidewalk below. He had to be quiet, and gentle; as he didn’t want to alert anyone nearby, and he also didn’t want to disturb any of Jason’s injuries anymore than he already was by moving him around at all without proper assessment.

Once safely on the ground, Tim gingerly deposits Jason on the curb, pulling out his phone to call for a cab. Normally, he’d request a ride from Alfred, or call for backup; but he wasn’t sure he had that luxury now.

It takes a while, to the point that Tim contemplates calling again, but soon enough a bright yellow cab pulls up to the building next to them. The windows are tinted, but Tim can just barely make out the silhouette of a man inside.

Jason’s settled into his new spot on the curb, so much so that when Tim attempts to move him from that position, he lets out a pained growl and starts slurring curse words. Moving him into the taxi takes some finagling; but despite his small stature, Tim could do a lot when he really put his mind to it.

“You know I don’t usually come out this far, but I figured I needed a change in scen-” The taxi driver’s staccato drawl slowly tapered off as he looked into the rear-view mirror, watching Red Robin load a bleeding, half-conscious Red Hood into his backseat.

“I’ll cover the bill for the backseat.” Tim said, figuring that’s what the driver was hung up on. Not many people would appreciate having their seats bled all over.

Instead of answering with gratitude or telling them to get out, the driver turned; “Tim?” and Tim found himself face-to-face with Dick Grayson.

Ric Grayson. He went by Ric now. He had a new name, a new haircut given to him courtesy of the hospital, and he wore a different expression than Dick might have, but it was him. Neither of them spoke, they just stared dumbly for a moment before Tim, with all of his genius intellect, said-

“We uh- we can get out-”

“Fuck- Tim godfuckshutupfuck- we are doing this.” Jason groaned, doubled over his right arm. His voice was hardly audible- but his tone seethed with unspoken rage.

“No, yeah, we’re doing this.” Ric turned around. “Buckle up. He’s going to the hospital.”

“Wait!”

“No replacementfuck-

“Take us to Dr. Leslie Thompkins’.” Tim asserted over Jason’s wrath-filled mumbles, murmurs which went unheard by Ric in the driver’s seat.

Ric hesitates for a moment, but glances back another time, taking in the awful state Jason was in, and started to drive. “Am I allowed to ask?”

The car was moving. Tim felt the last dregs of adrenaline drain from his veins, leaving him with the feeling like he hadn’t slept or even sat down in days. He released his shoulders, not even aware he had been holding them taunt.

Ric’s question went forgotten for a while. It went missing in the myriad of Jason’s angry groans and far too quiet whines.

“Tim?” “Hhn?” “Am I allowed to ask?”

“About what?” He asked.

“About what happened. I figured Batman-”

Jason let out a moan at the sound of Bruce’s costumed persona, leaning towards the door to the cab in a vain attempt to hide in something that vaguely resembled a corner. With his good arm, he paws at the door handle, but nothing comes of it.

“They had a fight.” Was all Tim said, hoping that would suffice. I think I’m out of the family. But those were the words he couldn’t say. There was a time and place for them, and it certainly wasn’t the present.

fuckingfight- He came for me… fuckingfight..” Jason mumbled fervently, though he spoke up occasionally. He shook his head. “Cobblepot… Cobblepot deserved it.” His words were clear, clearer than anything else he had said. His good arm snaking back from the door handle to hug himself, “He killedmyfuckingdad-

“Wait, Penguin did what-?” Tim leaned over and attempted to ask, he wasn’t quite sure he got all of that with Jason’s mumbling, but just as he asked, Ric hit a pothole.

Instead of answering Tim, Jason lets out a sharp cry. He tries to draw deeply into himself, scrunching up his body as small as he could in the back of Ric’s cab. He dropped his head between his knees, trying to wait out the screaming pain in his shoulder that had just been jostled. Bruce used to tell him to do something, he used to tell him to breathe… breathe something…

“Breathe, Jason-”

“Do you need me to stop?” Ric looked in the back once again.

eyesonthefucking road-” Jason growled.

Ric turned back around with a quiet ‘oh shit!’. The vehicle pitched up for a moment, caught on a curb. Despite himself, Tim felt his whole body jerk in surprise. After the ordeal with Batman, all of his training and careful conditioning Bruce had tried to engrain in him had sapped out of his system along with the adrenaline.

“Ric.” Tim chimed, “Turn up here.”

“Yeah I know-”

“Have you been to Dr. Thompkins’ before?”

“No..” Ric seemed to mull that over for a moment. He had never been to Dr. Leslie’s clinic before. “I just know where I’m going. You guys must have gone there often before.” with Dick, but nobody said that.

Dr. Leslie was locking up the clinic when Ric drove up, Tim and Jason in tow. She didn’t even ask what happened, she just ushered them inside.

“Is your arm broken?” She asked, watching as Tim limped Jason over to the nearest surface that he could sit on. He still cradled the arm close to his chest.

“Dislocated.” He answered, as quick and to-the-point as he could. “Tim put it back.”

Dr. Leslie momentarily takes her eyes off of Jason so that she could glance at Tim, then looked back. Tim didn’t know if it was because he had done a poor job of moving Jason’s shoulder back to where it belonged or if she was impressed that he was able to do it. It wasn’t hard, he had set his own before.

She glances back at Tim, saying; “Timothy, if you look in that cabinet-” She points to one right next to where he was standing; “You should find a sling or two. Grab me one while I approximate the rest of the damage.”

It takes her some time, cataloging all of Jason’s wounds. Bruce hadn’t held anything back, and it was sickening to look at just how far off the deep end Selina had pushed him if this was what he was capable of. Besides the dislocated shoulder, Dr. Leslie pointed out the bruising along his eye socket was most likely a fracture, as well as the cause of a concussion that was no doubt brewing in Jason’s skull right as they spoke.

The whole time Dr. Leslie sized up just how bad it was, Tim stood there awkwardly holding the sling, growing more and more horrified at the idea that Batman could have, and might have, killed someone tonight. Someone in the family, no less.

“Could have a neck injury too-” She looked back to Tim, “Oh right- Timothy, sling me.” She held out her hand, and for a moment Tim wasn’t sure what she meant- until he remembered he was holding the sling she had directed him to get nearly twenty minutes ago. As he handed it over, she followed up her previous statement with a question; “Did anything happen to his neck?”

“I- Batman dragged him across a rooftop.” Tim said. “By his helmet.” He resisted the urge to put his head down in shame. This was not his shame to bare- so why did it feel so awful to say?

She was silent for a moment. “I see.” She didn’t know what to say to that. She had no idea how to respond to ‘Batman dragged him across a rooftop’. Why not? He did it to criminals all the time, how was Jason any different?

The hinges on the back door squealed as someone else entered the clinic. Two bright pairs of eyes turned to meet whoever was coming in, but it was only Ric.

“Hey guys-” He mumbled, as if he were coming home from work, “I was just parking the cab- I don’t think you want me to keep the meter running.” There was a slight quirk to Ric’s lips. He had tried in vain to lighten the mood.

Before anyone could answer, Jason let out a groan, dropping his head between his knees. Previously, he had been making a valiant effort to keep himself propped upright for Dr. Leslie, and for himself. Now, however, he crumpled in on himself before them, like a tube man outside of a car lot that had been turned off.

It’s Tim who speaks up; “Jason? You okay?”

“He might be dizzy, his pupils were dilated-”

Jason barely lifted his head from where he had collapsed in on himself. “Gonnapuke…!

Dr. Leslie was much faster than the rest of them. It was probably one of the unfortunate perks to working with addicts in the Narrows and Crime Alley. So fast that if Tim didn’t know what she did for a living he might suggest that she was a metahuman as a joke- as she scruffed Jason by the back of his neck and wedged a trash can between his knees.

There were some dry heaves, but no one wanted to pay attention for that part.

There were no interruptions or awkward attempts at conversation after that. Dr. Leslie focused more on patching up Jason’s various injuries than small talk, so the four of them stood around in silence, with the occasional expression of pain on Jason’s part. It made Tim wince.

This was what Bruce was capable of. And more. So much more.

Once she had finished, Dr. Leslie regarded Tim, though when she glanced at Ric, it didn’t appear that she would be inviting him into conversation. Jason propped his good arm against his thigh as she left his side to speak with Tim, while Jason rubbed his eyes, eyebrows scrunched up tight.

“He needs rest- but he needs to be monitored.” She said, “Wake him up every hour or two. He’s concussed, but I think he should recover after a few days. As for the arm-” Dr. Leslie thinks for a moment, “If he has trouble with it, bring him back. He might have torn his rotator cuff.”

Injuries like this weren’t uncommon amongst masked crime-fighters. Torn ligaments, tendons and broken bones were par for the course. Tim wasn’t surprised about the injuries, Batman handed them out to criminals all the time.

To criminals. Jason was his-

He wasn’t sure if he was allowed to use that word.

“If his chest starts hurting either give him ibuprofen or put ice on it, I know you are extremely well-versed in caring for fractured ribs.” She added. Everyone in the family was, it was one of the more common complaints among them.

It was at this point that Ric pulled him aside, out of the tiny clinic room and into the hallway, shutting the door behind him. When they were alone, Ric sighed.

“I need to go back and clock out, do you want to bring him to my apartment?” He asked.

Tim rocks back on his heels. “No- your apartment is compromised.” He watched Ric’s eyebrows raise; “I mean- Batman swings by to check on you every-so-often. I have a safehouse that no one but me and Cass know about nearby that you can drop us off at, and you can be on your wa-”

“No way, I’m staying.”

Now that surprised Tim.

“And you’re not-?”

“No, we’re gonna talk about Bruce watching me without my permission.” Ric said, firmly; “But right now I think we have more important things to deal with.” He expected the anger, but the way Ric was handling it reminded him of Dick. Setting aside his problems with others to deal with the bigger task at hand.

Tim nodded. “Okay. So- take us to my safe house, and uh- ditch your cab. You can use my bike to get back.”

“Your bike?”

Tim nods, “Yeah- don’t worry, it’ll fit in the trunk.”

Leslie helped them get Jason into the taxi, not without verbal help from Jason, most of which came in the form of curses strung together in rather long and creative sentences. Most of which were insults. When he was situated in the back, Tim climbed in with Jason so that he could keep an eye on him.

“I can give you directions.” Tim spoke up as Ric got situated in the front seat.

“Don’t worry about it, all I need is an address. People want me to take them all over Bludhaven and Gotham, so I know the streets pretty well.” Ric insisted, turned around in his seat so that he could look at the two occupants in the back, “Everybody ready?”

Tim gives Jason a glance; the older man having scrunched himself up against the door once again. He turned back to Ric. “Yeah I think we’re all set.”

He supplied Ric with the address, and found himself surprised with Ric’s knowledge of Gotham’s streets after his memory loss. It just hadn’t set in with Tim that the taxi driver job and possible muscle memory was to blame. They had lost Dick, but had kept part of him in a near phantasmal form, his memories existing not in the mind, but in the flesh.

When they pulled up to the safehouse, it didn’t look like one. Tim had masterfully hidden it, of course, as any good Bat would. They were in the Narrows, smack dab in the middle of Red Hood’s territory. It sounded like a bad idea on paper, because the first place Batman would search was Crime Alley and The Narrows. However, Tim had made sure to keep this and another safehouse completely hidden, even from Bruce. Even from Alfred. He had checked Bruce’s records on the computer, even, just to make sure.

Tim was paranoid like that.

The building itself wasn’t even the safehouse, it was underneath it, and the entrance was in the alleyway. Tim could trust that Batman wasn’t flying around overhead at the moment. If anything, he had probably gone back to the manor to throw another temper tantrum.

With Ric’s help, Jason was out of the car and into the alleyway where the entrance to his safehouse was hidden. It was a manhole, where they could drop into the sewer. Inside the sewer, it was a short, 15-foot walk to a split in the tunnel that branched off into a seemingly pointless strip of concrete tunnel. Here, Tim could open up the safehouse, and they slipped inside.

Thankfully, the inside wasn’t as cold or dank as the sewer it had been built into. Tim had made sure of that when he had set aside funds from his own personal accounts to create it.

“Set him down right here.” Tim motioned for Ric to come over to an otherwise empty room; the only thing it housed was an unmade bed, the sheets in a neatly folded pile on the far corner, collecting dust. He’d never had to use this safehouse before, and as such he’d never really gone to the trouble of making it feel ‘homey’.

After depositing Jason on a bed, Tim quickly led Ric to a small garage where he kept the shiny new bike he had made that he could put in nearly any-sized trunk in a car. After a short conversation about the little motorcycle, with Ric chrisining it; ‘The Robincycle’, causing Tim to bite back a reply that he had one of his own- but Ric didn’t remember being Nightwing-- Tim handed Ric the keys and ushered him out the door with the reassurance that he would be able to make it back himself.

Then he was alone, with Jason languishing in a bed that Tim had never bothered to make, because he didn’t think ahead for once in his life. No one thinks ahead for this sort of thing. No one can guess that their adopted father was going to beat their brother to a bloody pulp.

A bloody pulp. It makes Tim shiver.

His phone screen lit up with a text message. He got them often; either updates from WE, memes from Steph or a stray text from Jason or dick Ric every once in a while; but this time, the words ‘Damian Wayne’ lit up his screen.

‘Updates?’

Well, he hadn't been kidding. Damian actually wanted an update on how Jason was doing.

‘Back from Leslie’s. In a secure location.’ He replied with minimal information, just in case Bruce was monitoring him in any way.

On some part, he felt that his level of paranoia was a bit unwarranted, that he was being ridiculous because Bruce wouldn’t monitor his own children that closely, would he? But he’d put trackers on every member of this family at some point, at least one which was always subdermal. It made him shudder. He knew that they were warranted. What if one of them got kidnapped? But they could always be abused.

This was a situation he could see them being abused.

‘Todd’s condition?’

‘Conscious, stable.’

‘If there is something I need to know, Drake, then tell me. Do not sugar-coat it.’

Damn. Damian was still sharp as a tack, as ever. Somewhere deep down Tim wanted to protect Damian from the knowledge of what Bruce did. That was still his father- but the damage done to Jason wasn’t something that could easily be forgiven. Damian would find out eventually. Tim didn’t want to be there when he did.

Perhaps Jason would. He loved being a fly on the wall, especially during family conflicts.

Instead of responding, he stared at his phone screen, watching it grow dim, and then shut off from lack of activity. He really didn’t know what to say. How do you tell a thirteen year old his father just fractured his older brother’s orbital?

Granted. Everyone knew Damian wasn’t your average preteen, they all knew that- but the twing in Tim’s chest told him the information would hurt. After everything, this would still hurt Damian.

He heard the bed creak in the room where Ric had deposited Jason. Then it creaked again, and the light in the bathroom came on- illuminating the otherwise darkened open bedroom doorway.

He doesn’t think much of it at first, still trying to figure out what to say to Damian. Being a Bat for so long had scrubbed the idea of checking on someone from his brain- why would he? Jason hated all forms of assistance, he was a stubborn person, just like Bruce, who claimed he worked alone only to suffer silently while his two closest friends, whomever they might be at the time, could only watch.

But Jason has a head injury. He had a couple. Tim tosses his phone aside after the light was on for ten seconds. After ten, he hears violent retching sounds, and clears the space between him and his brother in another ten seconds.

He finds Jason on the bathroom floor, propped up against the wall in a manner that couldn’t be described as anywhere near comfortable. His shoulder was smushed against the floor, his arm bent at the elbow as if it were propping him up. Mercifully, he hadn’t tried to free his other arm from its’ sling yet.

After a moment, however, Jason curls up into a ball without making a sound. No whimpering or crying or even cussing; nothing but heavy, defeated silence.

Tim wondered then, what kind of blackmail he would have on Jason should he take a picture of the older man, curled up on his bathroom floor, helpless, concussed and deemed an outsider.

Damian would think he was pathetic, lying there on the floor; ‘sulking’ as the tiniest Robin would describe. It wasn’t exactly the word Tim would use, but he was trying to imagine things the way Damian would have described them.

Dick would swoop in for a hug, damn the fists, curses and hissed threats. Were Ric still Dick, that is. Ric Grayson, however, was a mystery.

To Tim, he looked sad. This beating that Batman had rendered to him had taken something from him.

And Batman... before, Tim might have surmised what Bruce saw was the reflection of his son, the one he had wronged. The one he had failed. That was his little boy curled up there on Tim’s cheap linoleum, hurting and vomiting. But now, Tim didn’t think Bruce would think of him as family. He might not even think of him at all.

It created a lump in his throat he struggled to swallow.

The moment passed. Tim had a brother to care for, he could think of the implications this would incur later.

And there would be implications. There would be consequences for his actions. Batman never says; ‘we’re going to talk about this’ and fail to follow through.

At present, there was naught for him to do but take a seat next to Jason and monitor him, so he plopped down next to the shivering form of his older brother and said; “Ric’s gone to drop off the taxi, but he’ll be back soon.”

A beat passes between the two of them.

That’s fuckin’ fantastic,” Jason finally mumbled. There’s a hint of malice in his words, a touch of venom that was supposed to burn, but Tim doesn’t feel it. He’s numb to Jason’s antics, knowing full well that meanness was a way to hide his hurt.

Tim opens his mouth to say something, anything, but ultimately decides against it, his mouth snapping shut. Instead, he sits there with Jason, the both of them equally defeated in their deafening silence.