Dick didn’t know how he had gotten sucked into this. It had been Tim’s idea. And yet all five of them were sweeping up broken glass under Batman’s furious glare.
None of them dared mention Jason’s name. It wasn’t worth it.
“Dickwing,” the Red Hood greeted when their paths crossed on patrol.
“Hood,” Dick said as levelly as he could manage. Both of them shot their grapples at the same time, and swung through the air in parallel arcs.
“Just like old times,” Hood said as they landed on the next rooftop, Dick with an extra flourish. “Brings back fond memories.”
Dick stilled. Jason hated talking about ‘old times’. Something was very wrong.
“Remember that time you hid my book until the day before my report was due?” Hood asked, his tone politely inquiring.
Jason had thrown a knife through a window the last time someone had brought up something that had happened before he died.
“No,” Dick answered slowly, focusing on tracking Jason’s movements. Was it the Pit? Had something set him off? Did he need to call in Bruce?
“I’m sure it’ll come back to you,” Hood said, amused, and grappled away.
By the time Dick recognized the mischief in his tone, it was too late.
Dick tightened his fingers around the counter. The steam couldn’t hide the bright-red strands dripping cold water down his face.
“You always had a thing for redheads, didn’t you? Now all you need is a mirror.”
“You little shit –”
Dick moved to turn on the faucet, and got hit with a blast of cold water to the face.
Dick took one step inside his room and froze when his foot squelched.
He looked down to see white foam decorating the floor.
Dick shrieked and jumped back, hastily scrambling away from the many-legged thing perched inside his drawer.
Jason’s laughter echoed down the stairs.
His Nightwing suit was missing. Dick stalked through the Cave, opening every drawer and cupboard he passed, searching for the black-and-blue weave, and brushing past Bruce’s narrow-eyed look.
“What are you doing?” Bruce asked finally, when Dick slammed a drawer shut with a wordless sound of frustration.
“Looking for my suit,” Dick snapped back.
“Maybe you should keep better track of it,” Bruce said, turning back to the Batcomputer.
“I didn’t lose it, it was –” Dick cut off, breathing heavily, and scowled. He was eighteen again, and Bruce was telling him to set a better example, and the thirteen-year-old was smirking at him and Dick’s fingers itched to wrap around that throat and throttle him –
“I’ll find it,” Dick hissed, and continued his search.
He found it. In the trash. With strategic cutouts.
“You’re covered in paint,” Bruce said, giving him a stray glance.
“Jason did this,” Dick snarled.
Bruce sighed. “Really,” he said, his tone flat.
Dick’s jaw ached with the effort of suppressing the curses he wanted to spew.
“Careful there, Dickhead, you look like you’re about to explode,” Jason laughed, pushing past him to get to the kitchen.
Dick curled his hands into fists and briefly fantasized about breaking into Jason’s safehouses and filling his drawers with shaving cream and plastic spiders and water balloons.
Unfortunately, he could already see how it would end – Jason would blow up and go to ground, Bruce would be pissed, and he’d get a lecture on letting things go and being the better person.
Dick didn’t want to be the better person. Dick wanted revenge.
Dick went very still. Water was dripping down his spine and trailing down his legs. His shirt was soaked, his jeans felt like they’d been plastered on, and his suede jacket was ruined.
Jason was grinning, phone held up, flash on.
Dick took a step forward. His shoes squished in the growing puddle of water on the previously spotless floor.
“You want to play this game?” Dick asked, slowly and quietly. Jason lost the smile. “I’m willing to play, Jaybird.”
Dick chased him through the Manor, skidding on soaked shoes and ignoring wide-eyed looks as he ran after a shrieking brother who hadn’t stopped filming. Jason tore through Bruce’s study and Dick nearly caught up to him as Jason fiddled with the clock, missing his jacket by millimeters as Jason almost threw himself down the stairs.
“Dad!” Jason gasped and the Cave went silent with a sudden clatter, “Save me!”
Oh, the devious little piece of shit –
Bruce had jumped up, wild-eyed, scanning the Cave for threats as Dick stalked forward, his eyes intent on the grinning asshole who was attempting to hide behind Bruce like he was a little kid instead of a twenty-year-old vigilante that struck terror in the hearts of every dealer in Crime Alley.
“What’s going on?” Bruce asked, his voice dipping to the Batman growl. He paused on seeing Dick’s murderous approach, and shifted so he was fully between Dick and Jason.
“Dick was chasing me,” Jason said, his bewildered tone at odds with the way his shoulders were shaking with restrained laughter, “I don’t know why.”
“You know exactly why, you fucking –”
“Dick,” Bruce cut him off, his face dipping to a frown, “I already told you to stop blaming your brother.”
Jason had clamped his hand over his mouth to stop his desperate wheezes from escaping.
“I am going to kill you,” Dick threatened.
“Dick!” Bruce snapped, furious and affronted. Jason’s face had turned red as he struggled to breathe. Dick hoped he ruptured something trying not to laugh, the bastard.
“I know where you sleep,” Dick hissed.
“Richard John Grayson,” Bruce thundered.
Dick cracked his knuckles. It was time for retaliation.
He kept the glare on his face as he stomped downstairs for coffee. Jason had disappeared sometime during the night, but that was okay. Dick could be patient. Dick could be very, very patient. Dick would wait until Jason thought he was safe and smug and victorious, and then he would –
Dick spat out the coffee and gagged. He’d sworn he’d taken the sugar pot, not the salt shaker, so why –
Tim was staring intently at the table, his own mug of coffee half-empty.
“Timothy,” Dick said quietly.
Tim flinched. “I’m sorry,” he muttered, “But –”
“I wasn’t expecting this from you,” Dick said lowly, “I thought you’d be on my side at the very least.”
Tim winced, “Look, Jason said I could either be with him, or against him, and I know exactly how vicious he can be, so –”
“This whole thing started with you!”
“I’m sorry, Dick, I really am,” Tim said, edging away from the table, “But I really don’t want to get back on Jason’s bad side.”
Dick stared at his closet, which had somehow turned into a purple nightmare.
“Jason promised me a ride on his bike,” Steph shrugged.
Dick covered his head with his hands, in the faint hope that if he couldn’t see it, then his escrima sticks would not be dotted with fuzzy pink balls with streamers hanging off.
“Funny,” Cass said, patting his shoulder as she left.
“Of all the betrayals,” Dick said through gritted teeth, “I was never expecting this.”
Titus wagged his tail from where he was sprawled on top of Dick’s bed and refusing to move. Alfred was curled up on Dick’s pillow, sharp claws kneading the pillow case.
Damian was coolly examining the edge of a dagger. “I don’t join the losing side, Grayson.”
“Having fun, Dickhead?”
“I will make what I did to that book report seem like mercy when I’m done with you.”
“Dick, I’m happy that you’re trying to make Jason feel more welcome,” Bruce said, clapping a hand on his shoulder, “Just make sure you don’t break anything during your brotherly bonding. Alfred won’t be pleased.”
Dick’s eye twitched.
Dick cursed Jason for the stupid pranks that had led to a less-than-restful afternoon nap, the others for going along with the stupid plan to fill his bed with rubber snakes, Bruce for ignoring Dick every time he mentioned Jason’s name, and Poison Ivy for turning the greenhouse into a death trap.
Of all of them, Poison Ivy was the only person he could punch, and he was going to take full advantage of that.
Dick hissed and dodged as a vine shot straight towards his face, taking special glee in attacking it with his escrima. It twitched and flailed and Dick ducked its frantic movements, heading deeper into the maze.
This time, there were three vines and while Dick ducked one and held the other at bay with his escrima sticks, the third exploded into a flurry of glittery dust. Dick swore and immediately fumbled for his rebreather, where was it, he needed to get it on, he had to –
There was a fifteen-year-old kid dressed in his old uniform, standing in the shadows.
Dick froze for a long, heart-stopping moment. “Jay?” he stumbled a step forward.
The kid smiled, and red bubbled at the corner of his mouth. His domino mask was torn half off his face. The kid sucked in a breath, and Dick could see his chest cave in.
“Jason?” Dick said, high and tremulous. His knees crumpled on the next step, but Dick barely registered hitting the ground. The kid crouched with him, still smiling, and there was so much blood.
There was suddenly an explosion of sound around him, and Dick’s view was blocked by leather and dark body armor. “N? N, are you with me?”
“Jay,” Dick choked on a sob, “I’m so sorry about the book report.”
“N got hit with something,” a low growl sounded, “Take a sample. I’ll get him back to the Cave.”
“I didn’t mean to,” Dick confessed tearfully, “I didn’t – I knew how important books were to you – but I was so annoyed – and then –”
“Shh, Nightwing, it’s okay,” the voice said quietly, and Dick clung to the jacket as his weight was shifted up.
“No,” Dick shook his head weakly, “No, Jay, I took it and you were so upset and I promised myself I’d apologize the next time I visited but – but then you were dead.”
“…Now I’m regretting ever bringing the thing up. Nightwing, it’s okay, that was years ago, it doesn’t matter. I promise I’m not still mad.”
There was a low, rumbling sound underneath them, like they were in a car.
“I was a horrible brother,” Dick choked, “If I hadn’t – if you trusted me – if you told me when you left – if I was there –”
“If you were there, maybe you would’ve saved me,” Jason said quietly, “Or maybe we both would’ve died. But I’m here now, Dickiebird.”
Dick kept his weak grip on Jason’s jacket as the rumbling stopped.
“Come on, Wing, we need to get that pollen washed off,” Jason said, hefting Dick in his arms easily as they made their way to the showers. Dick clung to him, refusing to let go, afraid that he’d look up to see a sad, bloody smile instead of his brother’s normal scowl.
“I should’ve never taken that book,” Dick mumbled as water trickled down his uniform.
“It was just a stupid prank. I swear I didn’t run away from home because I couldn’t finish my homework.”
“…Still shouldn’t have done it.”
“You are making it very difficult to continue pranking you, you asshole.” The water shut off and Dick hissed as he was slowly pulled upright. Jason deposited him on a bed in the medbay and got him changed out of his uniform and into a loose shirt and sweatpants, before disappearing to get out of his own wet clothes.
The bloody child was still staring at him from the shadows. Dick watched it carefully until Jason came back, saw him staring at empty air, and swore. “It’s not real,” Jason said, sitting down on the bed and filling his field of view, “Whatever you’re seeing, it’s not real. B will have an antidote soon.”
Dick gripped Jason’s arm and squeezed his eyes shut. “Don’t go,” he pleaded quietly.
Jason sighed, deep and heavy. “Fine, Dickiebird, but just this once.” He shifted until he was lying down, letting Dick press his face against his chest so that he could hear Jason’s heartbeat.
“I’m sorry about the book.”
“Oh my god, Dick, let it go.”
Dick woke up slowly, twitching his nose, exhaling softly and curling further into the warmth that wrapped around him before cracking open his eyes. Black-and-white hair drifted in front of him, swaying in tune to Jason’s soft whistling breaths, and –
Jason squinted his eyes open to the sound of Dick’s chuckles. “What?” he asked, still half-asleep, “What are you laughing at?”
And then his gaze sharpened with a wordless growl.
Jason leaned back, rummaging around the bedside table for his phone as Dick kept snickering, and clicked open the camera with a glower.
There were little red helmets dotting Jason’s face, a triangle-shaped nose and whiskers, a large bat taking up his left cheek, and ‘Big Bad Red Hood’ scrawled across his forehead.
Jason passed Dick the phone without a sound, his eyebrows pulling down as his face twisted into a snarl. Dick kept grinning as Jason rubbed at the marks, checking his own face – dicks, how original – and cackled as the marks didn’t even smudge.
“Permanent marker,” Dick offered, giving the phone back to Jason.
“Normal marker, or the fancy stuff that B keeps around?” Jason asked.
Dick arched his eyebrow. Jason cursed. Dick dissolved into giggles again, and Jason scowled, “This isn’t funny.”
“It’s hilarious,” Dick said, extricating himself from the blankets, “Do you think we’ll ever be able to find all the pictures?”
“I highly doubt it,” Jason grumbled, “Replacement would definitely have made copies. And the little demon has at least four hiding places I don’t know about.”
Dick hummed and twisted to flop back down on the bed. “Hey, Jaybird?” Dick said softly.
“It’s a shame that we didn’t include the others in our brotherly bonding.”
“Poor little birds,” Jason tutted, “They must feel so left out.”
“We should be better big brothers,” Dick said, his lips curling up.
“We should.” When Dick turned to look at him, Jason had a matching smirk on his face. “Truce?” Jason offered, his eyes gleaming.
“Truce,” Dick grinned.
Bruce groaned and buried his head in his hands. He calculated the odds of them leaving the Manor standing in one piece and sighed.
Alfred would not be pleased.
He should put a stop to this before it got out of hand. Bruce darted another look at Dick and Jason – they were wearing identical plotting expressions on their faces. He shivered and walked away.
Alfred would learn how to live with it.