"Bruce," Jason had said six months ago, throwing his hood to the computer panels just for the dramatic effect — and because seriously, "What the fuck?"
Bruce, still in his Batman get-up save for the cowl, had tapped away without even sparing him a glance. "Hm," Bruce grunted.
"Don't you hm me, you fucking — fucking —"
Jason was at lost for words. He, the Jason Todd, cursing extraordinaire, was at lost for words. For curse words.
"— another one? Christ, Bruce, I swear to god you have a problem —" fucking obviously, Todd, this dude dressed up as a bat to cope with his emotions " — he isn't even a child, Bruce, he's, what, twenty two —?"
"Physically, he is eighteen. Mentally, he acts like a ten year old with ADHD."
"That's not the fucking point. He is — he isn't — isn't even human, for fucks sake."
Bruce had looked at him, then, stern and cold. And Jason had shut up for a split second because no matter what he told himself, that little sidekick instinct to obey was ingrained to him — possibly permanently. He hated that. He made an angry sound. "He was trained to kill, Bruce, he was designed to kill — How can you trust him?"
Jason had every right to be furious, fucking excuse you, because how could Bruce trust a literal barely-human trained assassin who had, not even a month ago by then, tried to kill Bruce himself? How could Bruce — when Bruce couldn't even talk to Jason like he wasn't some Arkham inmate —
Jason had been an Arkham inmate, but that's beside the point.
And plus, taking in a literal barely-human trained assassin who had tried to kill you — well. Anyone with a brain cell could name a fuckton of shit that can (will) go wrong out of that.
"He won't kill," Bruce had said flatly. And then he'd gone back to typing.
Not like you. It was unsaid, but Jason could hear it as clear as anything.
Jason saw red.
"And how the fuck would you know that? What the fuck made you so goddamn sure, huh, what the fuck stops me from going upstairs and shoot his fucking head off?"
The typing paused. "He saved Tim's life."
Something ugly twisted in Jason's gut. Jason had shot Tim. Jason had tried to kill Tim, literally. And this — this Talon guy, this murderer who isn't even wholly human — had saved Tim's life, apparently.
Well, that's just fantastic, isn't it.
Bruce turned and looked at him. Jason nearly flinched. "He doesn't want to kill. He never did."
"So you trust him?" just like that?
Bruce paused for a moment. "I trust him not to kill."
"That's not what I asked."
"He needs — " me. It was unsaid, but Jason could hear it. "— someone. A place. This place," he cut sternly when Jason opened his mouth to protest, "this place is temporary. He knows our identities — and most importantly, he has information. The Court of Owls has to be eradicated completely from Gotham. He is a crucial piece for that to happen. I will not risk any errors in this, Jason."
Crucial piece. Jason turned that phrase over in his head.
For a moment, Bruce allowed himself to look tired, to look like an actual human being instead of a justice-obsessed robot. And then that moment ended, and Bruce, again, looked like the asshole Jason hated. "He stays. Until I can find him someplace else."
He had gone back to typing. Jason had said, spitefully, "you better not be making a mistake, Batman," and on the way out of the Manor, he had made sure to nab one or two of the expensive champagnes in the kitchen cupboard out of spite.
Six months later, Dick — Dick, seriously, of all names — is still here.
And worse, he has grown on them — like a fucking mold.
Jason isn't at the manor often. Preferably not at all.
(A blatant lie, he checks up on Alfred every week.)
When Cass had first became a member of the family, it was often like she wasn't there at all. It took her a long time to ease in, to make her presence known. To be comfortable. But Dick?
Dick is like, a fucking hurricane. A handsome, cartwheeling, sugar-high hurricane.
He can't seem to shut the fuck up, for one. Bruce had not been exaggerating — he does act like a ten year old with ADHD. He probably has ADHD, Bruce's got to get that checked — though it'd undoubtedly be much more complicated to examine, what with all the trained-child-soldier ninja bullshit.
Whenever Jason steps into the house, Dick is there. Often hanging upside down from the chandelier as Jason comes in from the window — like he knows Jason would be coming — and then he would do a somersault landing and throw a megawatt smile at him. "Hiya, Little Wing!" he'd say.
The first time Dick had called him that, they'd nearly gotten into a fistfight. Or less of a fistfight, and more like Jason chasing Dick around with his guns out while Dick had jumped from wall to wall like Spiderman on crack, giggling all the while like a mad man — or a devil possessed child, whatever. Dick giggles — often, too, like everything is funny to him. Which is alarming, honestly, god knows everyone in this household needs a shrink, but Dick brings that to a brand new level. He has this childish quality in the way he acts, the way he speaks — but also not; his vocabulary, his knowledge, his problem solving skill — they are advanced. Dick is intelligent, and Jason has a strong conviction that his intelligence was the reason Grayson had managed to escape from the Court, the only Talon who managed to do so. It was his intelligence, that allowed him to bring the Court down — not his insane physical capabilities.
Hell, Dick apparently hangs out with Tim a lot to geek out on computer codes (fucking nerds).
(Jason can't, for the life of him, comprehend why would someone — who had basically gotten out from murder-slavery for the first time in a decade — learn about programming. One would think Dick's first choice of action to celebrate his newfound freedom is to like, smoke weed or whatever, but no. He decides to learn computer science instead.)
But mentally, well — Dick is a child. He looks like a high schooler, not much older than Tim; he still has that round cheeked look on him that only youth can provide. He looks — he looks Jason's age. If not younger. It's disconcerting, watching a near-adult act like he is ten — and more disconcerting to realize that Dick is a grown adult. Dick Grayson is twenty two, based on his birth date, and yet he is anything but.
Records state that Dick Grayson had been missing after his parents fall to their deaths. He was ten, then. And here they are — twelve years after. And Dick, Jason had realized some time ago, hasn't had the chance to grow up. That one epiphany is disturbing with how close it hits to home.
The Court has preserved his youth — perhaps permanently. Lasting youth cosmetic solution, you won't look a day over eighteen! Yours truly, Court of Owls XOXO.
("They put him in cyro from time to time," Bruce had said. He had been typing a report on Grayson's Talon file, from another interrogation session with Dick. Dick was, surprisingly, pliable. Or so he seemed, when Jason watched the tapes. Too pliable. He answered every question with the readiness of a soldier, completely detached as he laid out the gruesome details of the Court's doing. "They educate him, train him, give him missions — and when they have no use for him, they freeze him. This is also implemented as a method of punishment."
Jason raised his brow. "Punishment?" he echoed. "What does freezing undermine? So, he spent most of his time being a vegetable —"
"No. It's a conscious comatose," Bruce said. His face, as usual, gave away nothing. "He was awake the whole time."
Awake the whole time. Jason thought of the pit, thought of the green haze, the helplessness and the void, the cold, the utter nothingness. Awake and not at the same time. Just an eternal sequence of fucking nothingness. Trapped there, with the cold, with his mind. Trapped and unable to do anything about it.
"The freezing typically commenced for months," Bruce said, as clinical as ever, barely sparing Jason a glance. "As far as Dick is aware, the longest he had been punished for his misbehavior was a length of twenty six months."
"I want the files," Jason had said, and left.)
Another thing is that Dick gets along well with everyone.
Apparently Tim has been teaching him how to hack the pentagon, or something, and Jason has occasionally seen the two of them watch those old sixties murder mysteries together that Bruce likes so much. And Jason doesn't miss the slight blush Tim has on his face whenever Dick is in close proximity.
Okay, Tim has admitted that he had been obsessed with The Flying Graysons in his childhood, and there is also the fact that Tim had kinda watched Dick's whole family fell to their deaths, et cetera (can't anything be normal for once?). Those kind of things do tend to meddle with one's judgement, and it probably has some psychology mumbo jumbo that affects Tim's perception on Dick Grayson. And there is also the fact that Grayson had saved Tim's life, blah blah, so whatever — Tim is biased, heavily.
But it's not just Tim.
Alfred has taken a liking to Dick, despite the amount of times the butler finds the crazy fuck hanging upside down from the ceiling. Like a bat, ironically. Or the times Dick slides down the fucking banister wearing Cass' ballerina tutu. Or the times Dick has apparently made all the fruit loops in the manor magically vanish. Dick babbles to Alfred like a — well, a child. Jason once walked in to the kitchen when Dick was in the middle of describing his pet elephant (dude is literally from the goddamn circus), Zitka. He was waving his hands animatically, eyes sparkling like a kid in Disneyland. "She's so soft, Alfie!" he'd said, that grin never leaving his face. The butler had been watching him with amusement, setting up wine glasses in the cabinet. "I'm sure, Master Dick."
(Master Dick. Christ. Dick's presence in his life has also cursed Jason with an endless amount of dick jokes running unwarranted in his head.)
"She lifts me up! With her trunk! And sometimes when I'm good Mami allows me to shower with her. She uses her trunk to spray me with water! Like a huge shower head."
"Is that so, Master Dick," Alfred said, and his face is impeccably stoic as always, but Jason saw his mustache twitch — a sign that the butler was holding a laughter.
Dick had nodded enthusiastically. "Kak said it's gross, he said it's basically her snot. But I don't care! It feels so good and sometimes when she sprays to the sky it makes rainbows appear — hiya, Little Wing!"
Jason had scoffed and left — and of course, Dick had followed him after like an insufferable second head. An insufferable second head that can't shut the fuck up.
Then Cass. Well. They are both best friends now, that's what.
In hindsight, it shouldn't have been a surprise to Jason that Dick and Cass had became best friends almost immediately. Probably got something to do with their trained-assassin-creepy-ninja-fucked-up-childhood background. Though, Jason supposes, they're all kind of in the fucked-up-childhood background club. Also dead-but-not-really club.
The difference is striking to see. Cass is silent — not as silent as she had used to be, but she is silent. Reserved. Calm. Soft words and shy smiles.
Dick is the exact opposite of that.
As formerly stated, it really, really shouldn't have been a surprise, maybe, given the similarities of their backgrounds. Assassin children cliches and all that. But somehow, it is. Seeing the both of them side by side is a peculiar sight.
Like right now. Cass is wearing all black as usual, because she's a little emo (they're all a little emo, if Jason's being honest). She's got this simple turtle neck that makes her look sophisticated and sleek trousers, because she has a great fashion sense; whilst Dick is wearing a tank top in a horrifying shade of neon and pink short pants — literally short pants — because he's a little crazy and has a shit fashion sense.
(Granted, they're all a little crazy — more than a little — but honest to fuck Dick's fashion wear should be enough reason to put him in Arkham.)
They're watching Mulan.
"Hiya Lil' Wing," Dick says, eyes on the screen. Cass gives him a little wave, eyes also on the screen.
As different as they both are — they're also weirdly alike, in even weirder ways. Like the way they move, the way they prowl throughout the manor. Even the way they fight — Jason has seen them spar against each other, and it's like watching some kind of lethal murder ballet performance; movements so fast they blur in motion, limbs nimbly contorting in unnatural, inhumane ways. Jason never saw a fight so gracefully violent. Jason, in a physical combat, has a low chance to win against Cass — Jason can admit this with no shame. Hell, Bruce doesn't have that high a chance against Cass either. So the both of them are alarmingly deadly, and now they are best friends.
(Watching Cass and Dick spar, it reminded Jason that Dick — the weird fucker who is chronically addicted to fruit loops with the attention span of a chimpanzee — is dangerous. Reminded Jason that unllike the rest of them, Dick is not exactly human.)
And they are both touchy as hell.
Like right now: Dick's bare legs (he's wearing panties. Panties) are all over the couch, all smooth golden skin and corded muscles. His head is on her lap. Cassandra has a hand running up and down Dick's hair, her legs crossed under Dick's head. It's a comical scene; Dick is at least twice Cassandra's build, maybe more — they are both slender — a seven foot tall man in pink panties cuddling onto a small, slight looking girl.
Of course, they both can kill people with a toothpick or something, but that's beside the point.
"Don't call me that," Jason grunts.
Dick and Cass turn to look at him at the exact same time and speed — pretty fucking creepy, that — Dick pouts, and Cass just gives him an unapproving look. Jason rolls his eyes as I'll Make a Man Out of You starts playing. If Bruce wants to turn the Manor into creepy ninja daycare, well, that's his business and shit life decision — no surprise there.
"Hey, Jay," Tim comes from the kitchen with a mug — coffee, undoubtedly.
"Timmy," Dick says happily, extending his arms in some kind of invitation. Jason watches as Tim snugs himself up against the couch. Dick proceeds to pat Tim's head like a pet cat, carding through his hair, and Tim leans to the touch like a flower to sunlight. Tim blushes, and he looks — content.
Jason knows Tim starves for affection like that — physical touch, one of many things — having being brought up the way he was. And Bruce, after all, has never been particularly touchy, except if you've just gotten shot, or if you've got a fever, or —
Jason used to think he should get hurt for Bruce to show that he cared. Tim probably thought the same way too. Probably still does.
(Hell, that infuriating part of Jason probably does, too.)
So now, Jason is watching Cass pets Dick's hair as Dick pets Tim's hair, the three of them looking almost like a bunch of normal teenagers watching Li Shang sing to Mulan — looking comically almost like a bunch of siblings from different mothers, all three of them with their identical black hair and slender builds, leaning on each other against the couch familiarly, intimately. Affectionately. Looking almost — almost — like a family. Like Jason's family.
The thought makes Jason sick. Sick, angry, and —
"Jay," Tim says. Jason's gaze refocuses to the smallest bird. The palest of all of them, eyes big and rimmed with dark circles, limbs wiry and hair infinitely messy. Tim looks young. All three of them look young.
It comes out snappier than he means it to be, but Tim doesn't flinch. He had used to, all the time, flinching and shaking under Jason's gun and harsh words — not anymore. That was two years ago. Tim is sixteen, now, older and tougher. Sharper around the edges.
Tim pats the space beside him.
Jason rolls his eyes and leaves without a word.
And as to Bruce's taking to Dick —
Jason doesn't like to think about it.
He doesn't like what he feels when he thinks about it. Jason never even sees them talk. Granted, he has been avoiding both of them separately, so with luck, he's only gotten Dick to follow him around like a pest. And Jason avoids Bruce like a plague. And Bruce, too, avoids Jason — Jason is sure. Because if Bruce wanted to meet him, Bruce would find him, even if Jason booked a plane to Alaska. As much as Jason hates to admit it, Jason has managed to avoid Bruce so far because Bruce has allowed him to.
Fuck that. Bruce is not infallible. Jason should know. He has taken a crowbar to the head enough times to assure that he knows.
And Jason doesn't like it, doesn't like Dick, but maybe, maybe this — this addition to the family will do some good, and if not for Jason, then —
What the fuck ever.
Fuck feelings. Fuck jealousy — he knows what it is, alright, Jason is mature enough to recognize the burning feeling in the pit of his chest, the incessant throbbing mess of anger and lost — the stupid fucking jealousy that mars him when Alfred made Dick some elephant-shaped cookies, when Dick and Tim hacked Donald Trump's twitter, when Cass taught Dick the ballet for Coppélia. When Bruce had said I trust him not to kill.
And fuck, fuck whatever it was that he had felt when he had seen Dick and Cass and Tim on the couch, petting each other's hair, the three of them singing along to I'll Make a Man Out of You. Fuck whatever voice in his head that had told him, told him that they had looked like a family. Jason's family. Fuck that.
Because unlike Bruce — and despite all the blazing mess of shit that has happened in Jason's life, and death —
Jason does not, and will not, let feelings fuck up his judgement.
And Jason knows what being a murderer means, knows it better than Bruce does, much better, because Jason Todd is a murderer. And Dick Grayson — no matter what Bruce says — is one, too.
I trust him not to kill, Bruce had said.