Chapter Two: The Replacement

It's not very eventful for a Sunday, but in hindsight, it's too hot a day to be out.

Still, Jason was expecting something more than what he gets (a few reckless drivers and some noise complaints) before he's back at the station, pushing open the doors and cringing when he's met with air equally sweaty and miserable as the outside.

The whole station is haunted by bad heating and cooling units, the AC always blaring in the winter while the heaters flare up only when the summer temps reach unbearable heights. Jason's grateful someone's at least turned the blasted thing off when he falls back into his chair, resting his head on his desk while he waits for the fan to blow his way.

A few gusts of wind catch in his hair before another sound comes.

"Excuse me..."

For a moment, Jason thinks Dick or Cass is there and someone's shyly trying to pass through them. But the pair are out working cases (They've all been swamped lately.), and there's no shuffling of feet against the linoleum floors to indicate the request was for someone else. So, begrudgingly, Jason pries his forehead off his desk.

"Yes?" he asks with a bored expression, eyes automatically sweeping over the person in front of him. It's someone barely 5'6'' who—if not for the dress shirt and pants—Jason would guess is looking for a crossing guard to help him get back from school.

Essentially, this newcomer's no one very threatening.

Jason lets go of the drawer handle, the one where he stashes his spare pistol, and reminds himself getting trigger-happy isn't a habit he should pursue. He hides the lapse well enough, though, countenance as calm as ever.

"You're—" The kid glances at the name plate seated on the edge of Jason's desk. "—Detective Todd, right? From Wayne's unit?" And it's a minor thing, but the more Jason looks at this person, the more tired he seems, like he's made a lot of mistakes before getting here and isn't eager to make more.

"That's what they keep telling me," Jason drawls in response, reclining in his chair as he clicks the top of a pen on his desk, "what'chya got for me, kid?"

It takes a second, one of those long, pregnant seconds that always precedes bad news like "your goldfish died" or "the world is ending," before the person inhales deeply, some of the exhaustion clearing from his face as he rolls his shoulders back to stand straighter. "Detective-Specialist Timothy Drake from Metropolis," he introduces, "I've been assigned to help you with the Robinson case."

The office fan runs another cycle.

It's the only sound in the rom.

Frankly, the whole "world is ending" bit would've been more expected, and Jason's sure his surprise shows as he sets down his pen. It's an innocent mix-up. It's gotta be. Because Jason doesn't need help with that case, and he certainly didn't ask for any.

"I think there's been a mistake."

"There's no mistake," the kid answers, although he looks a little defeated, "I'm the explosives expert your office requested last week."

Explosives expert?

Jason can't help glancing down at his desk. The Robinson case sits there, the serial bombing one he's had for the past month. The kid would match with someone commonly entreated for that type of crime; he's not out of place here in that regard. But the fact still stands that Jason didn't file for anyone.

Suddenly, everything is under suspicion. He should have caught on sooner. Bruce's unit is well-known for its work, so unsolved cases find their way to their desks all the time. But bombings aren't usually one of them; Carrie Kelly in Kane's unit handles those types of things.

And a detective from Metro? The GCPD has its own experts that are more than capable of covering the few lapses in knowledge Jason might have.

But here Jason sits, with a case that shouldn't be his and a kid who shouldn't be here. And somehow, it all has come together this way, and Jason knows just where to go for answers.

The door's flying open not five seconds later.

"Just what do you think you're doing?"

Bruce perks up faintly from where he sits at his desk. He's not shocked per se, instead looking faintly amused by the furious person who's busted into his den of an office.

And really, Dick's not wrong to call the place a cave, what with all its mounds of files and shut windows. The blinds are always turned up so no one can see in, the only lights in the room from the two monitors sitting on the desk, and even then, those computers are used solely to view camera footage or for some high-tech analysis program that has become so integral to their profession over the years. Everything else is done on paper, because electronics are hackable and Bruce doesn't take chances.

But everyone in their unit has quirks: Dick has his questionable sense of style; Cass has her silence; and Bruce has his paranoia ("Vigilance," he calls it.), a quirk that has since rubbed off on Jason.

The guy likes things that are predictable, so Jason knows a new detective showing up was common knowledge to Bruce the second the Robinson case wound up in his hands. Still, Bruce is there, blandly entertained over his mountains of paperwork and waiting for Jason to say more.

"Tell me you didn't have anything to do with this."

"Do with what?"

"You know perfectly well what I mean," Jason snaps, "that case! That kid! Just who do you think you are?"

Bruce leans forward a fraction, enough to put his elbows on his desk and lace his fingers together. The shift doesn't make Jason any less angry.

"You could use the help," Bruce finally speaks, and Jason searches the statement for a moment because he's not sure if the man is talking about the case—or something else. He continues, "Whoever that bomber is is dangerous, and another pair of eyes could prove useful."

"But I don't need a new partner, Bruce. Temporary or not. Just stick Carrie with me or something and send the kid back."

It's a situation Jason never thought he'd be asking for, because Carrie's the last person in the station he wants to work with. She's impulsive and gets too excited around explosives for comfort, always wearing weird goggles like she can't wait to get close to something dangerous that could blow out her eyes. But honestly? She's familiar, and that's better than the alternative.

Bruce isn't really paying much attention anymore, though, pulling a file close. "Carrie's got her hands full, Jason. We all do."

Of course their office is flooded with work. It's summertime in Gotham: the season of baseball, ice cream, and rampant crime. But it's the same story in Metropolis, and they both know it.

"Then let me handle it on my own if we're that busy," Jason argues, "you've still got no right dumping someone on me without my knowing so. That's low—even for you."

Evidently, Bruce has decided he's had enough, as the man casts a pointed look at a certificate on the wall and the three extra letters tacked on to his lieutenant title. Jason knows what Bruce is saying, a strong move for a gesture so subtle: The C.D.S. declares he's the boss, no matter how much Jason may want to deny it, and that what he says is law.*

Jason wants this job. He's wanted it the second he marched into the police station when he was a teenager, and he knows that look when he sees it. Bruce is telling him that's enough. And despite wanting to lay into him more, Jason keeps his trap shut, instead settling for the best death glare he's ever dished out.

With that out of the way, Bruce is calling in the kid from outside the door, and they go on for a bit about what happens next. Jason does his best to tune it out; he doesn't want to hear it. But somehow, scraps of the conversation reach anyway.

"Jason here can get you set up with a uniform tomorrow, and you'll be on his team for the next two months of your liaison period," Bruce's voice cuts in, "he'll show you the ropes and get you reacquainted with the streets here."

There's a second where Jason processes the verb of choice in that last thought (reacquainted). That's great, he thinks sarcastically, just great. The only thing worse than a greenhorn from Metro is a greenhorn from Metro who's got a past in Gotham, and it looks like Jason's managed to pick up the latter.

Ah, life is full of such unexpected joy.

Jason just wishes he could say the same about his own life.

He's still glaring daggers at Bruce, silently hoping looks really can kill, but naturally, the man's as unfazed as usual and—what's more—Bruce is actually allowing the time to eek by, second by painful second, without dismissing either of them. He's such a jerk like that.

Finally, finally, there's the scribbling of a pen, and Jason's already gearing his muscles to bolt.

"That is all."

He's out in the hallway the moment the words are out, making a beeline for the stairwell that'll take him to his bike. Jason just got back, but that doesn't matter. His thoughts are too busy pulling him out of the station, running away with him with each step.

This is so typical. Jason's kicking himself for not having put it all together sooner: Bruce always pulls crap like this, doing things he—with all his magnanimous knowledge and time parked in that stupid office of his—believes will help when, really, they only make things worse.

Jason's reached the lot by now, and the motorcycle engine's humming beneath him like it's saying farewell. That's probably what the bike's doing, actually, and Jason winces. Today's his last day with it, because tomorrow means he'll have to share a car with some cheeky Detective-Specialist (What crack in Metro invented that stupid title, anyway?), and all the progress Jason's made in the past year will be gone.*

He spends a few minutes just holding the handlebars, watching the pavement roll up in hot steam in the distance, as he already regrets the next two months of his life. Nine whole weeks of baby-sitting and being even more on edge with someone there to scrutinize his every move.

Jason was doing just fine on his own, and this was the last thing he needed, bottom of the barrel, would rather die kind of last thing he needed. He doesn't want a new partner, because no one can replace Roy. But it looks like he's getting one anyway, all because of his superior's ill-placed benevolence and knack for solving—worsening—other people's problems.

Jason eases out a sigh, thumbing the handlebar grips and calculating how long it would take for him to drive to Miami. It's a half-hearted thought, but the more the clock ticks away on the dash, the more tempting Roy's crappy seaside shack gets. In the end, though, the idea is shoved away.

Two months, Jason thinks, pulling out onto the street. He can do this…

Right?


AN: Tim's side comes next chapter. You have been forewarned.

*Sergeants and lieutenants, despite being higher in both rank and pay, typically only have supervisional authority over detectives. However, there is an exception, and that is if that sergeant/lieutenant has a special ranking designating that they are the commander of a team of detectives, meaning they can issue orders. The C.D.S. rank is specifically for lieutenants.

*The NYPD sorts detectives into two categories: detective-specialists (because they possess a unique skill set) and detective-inspectors. No other departments use this system, though, and just have the latter. I thought it'd be fun to attach that fact to the MPD instead.