The Prologue's Prologue
We have come to expect several things from stories involving heroes. The hero always lives. The hero overcomes insurmountable odds. The hero always saves the day. This is not one of those stories. In fact, this is not a happy story at all. There will be no triumphant victory, and most of the characters won't live to see its conclusion. You see, this is the story of Jason Todd. You may be familiar with his tale – the second Robin, murdered, resurrected, hell bent on revenge against the man he once saw as a father. Let's just say that this time, things didn't exactly go according to Jason's plan. It all started when a certain group of villains triggered an alien invasion that they'd hoped to control. That didn't really work out for them. It didn't really work out for Jason either, because their plans resulted in Batman leaving Earth and never returning. He couldn't exactly carry out his revenge when the man of honour was probably dead in some far off galaxy. Or so he'd thought.
It was nearing the end of summer 2016 when Jason first heard the rumours of Batman's triumphant return. With an alien invasion in full swing, he honestly thought it was just someone with ill intent spreading false hope. Despite his misgivings, he decided to take a trip to Gotham City. He had business to deal with there anyway, it wasn't as though he made the trip purely to see if Bruce was indeed alive.
It was in Gotham City where he came across a man in an all too familiar Bat suit. This man took one look at the red helmeted, gun wielding Jason and proceeded to attack first and ask questions later.
"Who are you?" a gruff voice asked – one that was definitely not Batman's. A fair impression, but not nearly good enough to fool a former protégé of the real thing.
Regardless, Jason couldn't help but feel there was something eerily familiar about that voice. Something that wasn't Batman. Something he couldn't quite put his finger on. So he did something that he would undoubtedly regret later, he took off his helmet and tossed it to the side and stared down the faux-Batman through the lenses of his domino mask.
"J-Jason?" whispered a small voice that sounded so strange coming from behind the cowl, but it was a voice Jason knew.
"So it is you Dickhead," he replied.
"I," Dick seemed to choke on his own voice for a moment; he coughed before continuing, "I don't understand."
"Well you don't need to," Jason turned to leave, he'd solved the mystery of the resurrected Batman, he didn't need or want to be in this city a moment longer than necessary, but a strong hand around his wrist stopped him in his tracks.
"Wait," Dick croaked as he pulled down the cowl.
Jason turned again to face him, but before he had a chance to even protest, he was pulled into an almighty bear hug by his older brother. Memories stirred at the back of Jason's mind of the many times this had happened before, and he couldn't lie, these hugs were something he had sorely missed. Dick balled his hands into Jason's jacket as though he was holding on for dear life, and Jason let him. It was without any conscious thought that Jason lifted his own arms and wrapped them around his brother – in a world on the verge of complete annihilation, there didn't seem to be much point in fighting Dick's older brother mode, in fact, it was a welcome relief. After all these years, Dick still managed to stop the world from falling apart with something as simple as a hug, even if it was only for a moment.
Jason was drawn out of his thoughts as he realised Dick was crying, and not the calm collected version, it was the body being wracked by uncontrolled sobs kind of crying.
"Y-you….you d-ied," Dick spluttered out between sobs, "how…are you h-here? We buried you."
Dick's last words came out as barely a whisper, and Jason decided enough was enough and pushed his older brother away. It was time to deliver some home truths.
"And then you replaced me," he managed to say in a calm voice that dripped with all the venom he felt.
"It wasn't like that!" Dick somehow bellowed despite being a sobbing mess, "We mourned you."
"For all of six months." Jason huffed.
"It wasn't like that," he muttered again, but without his former gusto.
"You know, you keep saying that, but I'm really not seeing any evidence to the contrary. You're just not willing to admit that the old man picked up the next black haired, blue eyed orphan he came across, gave him the name Robin and–"
"Tim came to us," Dick's words cut in and halted Jason's rant.
"Bruce didn't find him, he came to us. Knew who we were. Knew that you… He convinced Bruce he needed a Robin. He wasn't even an orphan," Dick looked away, almost like he was ashamed, "until recently."
Now that, that was something Jason hadn't been expecting. Well, actually, he hadn't been expecting any of this meeting. But the new information about the replacement was an interesting development to say the least.
"I see," there were probably a thousand or so ways that Jason could have responded, but somehow those two simple words were what decided to fall out of his mouth.
For several minutes there was nothing but silence between the two suddenly reunited brothers, both afraid of what would be said next and what it would mean. It was Dick who broke the silence in the end.
"I missed you." he said simply and Jason stared at him like he was the strangest creature he ever did see, "Come home."
And yeah, no, if Dick could stop sending curve balls his way, Jason might be able to hold on to his sanity long enough to get off the roof top they were on.
"I can't do that."
"Why not?" and if the expression on Dick's face did not resemble a kicked puppy Jason would eat his helmet.
"For one thing I have a life!"
"How? Haven't you noticed that the planet has been invaded?!"
Jason had to admit that Dick had a point, not that he would say that out loud. Truth be told, Jason didn't have much of a life. After being resurrected by a Lazarus pit and finding out all that had happened since his demise (thanks Talia) he'd had grand plans of revenge and retribution. Those didn't exactly pan out.
After the fact, he travelled to the distant corners of the world to train with experts in various martial arts. The thing was though, that when an alien race was intent on conquering the whole Earth, not even the most desolate settlement was safe. That's the real reason Jason had ended up back in America. Back in Gotham. Maybe he was subconsciously looking for something. Maybe he'd found it. Jason suddenly realised he hadn't spoken in quite some time, and Dick was staring at him.
"I'll think about it," he mumbled as he threw down a smoke bomb and ran off into the night – not his finest moment, but he hadn't been in the right mind set for all of... whatever that was.
And Jason did think. He thought long and hard about what possible reason he could have for declining Dick's offer. He couldn't return to the Shadows – Talia had met a miserable fate, and Jason had done nothing to win Ra's' favour. He couldn't kick off his own gig, it would be downright impossible with the world the way it was. He could go back to travelling the world as a lone wolf, but he knew deep down that wasn't the life he wanted. He hid out for three days in Gotham, but figured that was ample time to leave Dick stewing on the knowledge that he was alive. He'd made his decision. He was returning home.
The next chapter will be called "Not Quite Home". It'll be out in a week or two.
So, this took a lot longer than first expected to come out. Long story short, from mid-Feb until now has been non-stop crazy, plus what I first thought would be a one or maybe two shot has now turned into a multi-chapter giant. Chapters are going to be quite slow with this story because of how crazy this year is being, currently aiming for one a month.
Also want to give a shout out and huge thank you to my beta Shinigami Merchant who has patiently put up with all my delays in getting this stuff written, and been so incredibly helpful!