A/N: I got the idea from the Red Hood and the Outlaws (2016) Annual #1. I'm not sure what the age difference between Dick and Jason are because of all the retcons, so I'm mostly shooting from the hip with this, but I hope you enjoy it and feel free to review.
Young Jason Todd knew little happiness in his life, but one thing that always made him smile was the circus. Maybe it was the colorful outfits or the crazy performances, but he couldn't think of anything he enjoyed more. Unfortunately, the chances of his no good dad getting tickets were slim at best, and the annual visits from Haley's Circus were his greatest source of joy in his otherwise sad life. So, he did what any kid in his position would do: he snuck in without paying.
Young Dick Grayson loved performing: the thrill of jumping over a fifty foot threshold and the roar of the crowd was the greatest experience in the world. He especially enjoyed watching the smiles on the audience's faces. It didn't matter if they were rich or poor, a good performer lives to get a reaction from the crowd. He couldn't wait to get up there and show everyone the marvel of the Flying Graysons. Before every show, Dick and his parents would stroll around the fair grounds and greet everyone who passed by, but today you Richard Grayson was walking off his frustrations because he got into so much trouble, his parents forbade him to perform that day. With the one thing he loved more than anything taken away, Dick needed to clear his head. His head might not have been cleared but his thoughts were interrupted by the music of elephant trumpeting and foul mouthed complaining.
Dick rushed towards the elephant enclosures because he was worried about his elephant friend Sitka and the yelling made it sound like someone was trying to hurt her. Although it looks like he was worried for nothing because it turned out that screaming was due to Sitka's trunk grabbing some angry kid.
"Let go of me you big mammoth," the kid cried out as he tried to wriggle out of the elephant's grip. He looked younger than Dick, his hair was the same shade of black, but his eyes were like a mix of cool blue and bright green.
"Sitka let him go."
At Dick's command, the elephant immediately dropped him.
"Ow," exclaimed the kid who was just dropped on his butt by an elephant.
"Maybe you didn't read the sign but you're not supposed to be here." The kid who told this to Jason was only a little older than him with sweet blue eyes and black hair much like his own, but he looked like he worked there.
Now, Jason was never one for respecting authority figures, especially when they were barely older than he was, but he needed to keep a low profile if he didn't want to miss the trapeze act. "I must've taken a wrong turn," he said with his most innocent sounding voice. He wasn't sure if the circus boy bought it and he didn't really have time to find out because he spotted the manager racing towards him. He went back to hiding behind the elephant.
Mr. Haley looked mad, Dick knew that look all too well, he always looks that way, when someone sneaks in without a ticket. And there was something about the kid hiding behind the elephant that screamed "sneak".
Mr. Haley was storming towards them.
"Hi Mr. Haley," Dick greeted in his warmest tone.
Mr. Haley didn't return the greeting because he was still mad about a kid who snuck in without paying. "Have you seen a little boy with black hair running around here without parents?"
Dick pretended to ponder the question before answering, "I think I saw one over by the corn dogs."
He thanked Dick for the information and rushed off.
After Mr. Haley was out of sight, Dick directed his attention to the boy hiding behind an elephant's bottom. "Let me guess, you snuck in here without paying."
He nodded, begrudgingly.
"You know you have better luck hiding with the clowns," Dick said teasingly.
"I hate clowns; I mean who really needs that much make-up."
"It highlights their faces." Dick reaches his hand out to help the boy off the ground. "I'm Richard by the way, Richard Grayson, but my friends call me Dick."
Jason couldn't contain his smirk. "Seriously," he exclaimed, "Because they sound like lousy friends to call you that."
"So what do they call you Mr. Smart Alec?"
Dick looked at the boy for a moment, it seemed as though he was being scrutinized. "Do you know what fortune tellers do?"
John Doe raised an eyebrow. "Isn't all that 'seeing into the future' stuff all fake?"
"Sure looking into the future might not be real, but the best fortune tellers aren't the ones who can see into your future, they're the ones who can look into your present and predict your past. For example, they can tell when you're lying just by the way you shift your eyes, John Doe."
Jason kept his silence. He's always been able to trick the cops but he never thought he would be outsmarted by some circus kid.
"Are you going to tell the police?" Jason asked.
"Depends. What are you doing here, and don't lie."
"I just came here to watch the show." His eyes didn't meet Dick's. "I heard that the trapeze act here was the best."
"How are you planning to get into the circus tent without the ticketholder noticing you?"
"I just duck into the thick crowd, and voila, I'm invisible."
"Why do you want to see the trapeze artists so badly?"
Jason kept his head down. "Because I like the way they fly in the air like birds, always smiling, always free."
Looking at the little boy in front of him, Dick was reminded of why he performed, to see a smile on the faces of the audience.
"You know the ticketholders here are pretty sharp," informed Dick, "They're bound to notice you sooner or later."
"So, what I'm just supposed to go home?" Going home was the last thing Jason wanted
"No." Dick grabbed Jason by the hand and dragged him to the big top, but instead of going through the front entrance like the rest of the public, Dick guided him to a secret part of tent, an entrance that was cleverly hidden by a piece of tarp of the same color.
"Where are we going?" the younger boy asked.
"You'll see," the older one replied, mischievously. Growing up at Haley's, Dick knew these tents like the back of his hand, including the section of the big top where the workers hide out during show time. With the surrounding darkness and the spotlights focused entirely on the performers, no one even noticed two kids sneaking in.
Jason never dreamed he would see a show like this before, hanging from a catwalk right next to the spotlights. He could practically feel the hushed breaths of the crowd as they marveled at the feats.
"Best view in the entire circus," Dick declared, "I used to sneak up here all the time when everyone thought I was asleep."
"I guess being a circus kid has its advantages." Jason hated admitting he was impressed, but he had to give credit where it was due.
Finally it was time for the ringmaster to introduce the trapeze act, but Jason was surprised when he announced the name of the act right next to the spotlights.
"And now ladies and gentlemen, the moment you've all been waiting for: Haley's Circus very own Flying Graysons."
"Did he just say Grayson?"
"Oh, did I forget to mention my family's been a part of this circus' trapeze act for years?" Dick implied with mock modesty.
"Then, why aren't you on stage now?"
"I got grounded, so I'm not allowed to perform."
Jason seemed to perk up at the news. "Well in that case, why don't I show you around Gotham city to thank you for getting me here."
When Dick was told that he was going to get a tour of Gotham, he wasn't expecting it to be filled with run down, dark alleys and cold, damp abandoned buildings.
"Welcome to my world circus boy." Jason chuckled, he was going to enjoy showing up Grayson. "Come on, I'll show you how we fly on the streets." Jason hopped onto the nearest fire escape. "You coming circus boy," he teased.
Dick rolled his eyes and followed Jason onto the fire escape, but instead of just hoping onto it he flipped over the banister, held the upside down position for ten seconds, before flipping back down, with nothing but a single arm.
Jason tried to hide his amazement with a scoff. "Show off."
"Hey, you can take the kid out of the circus…"
"Okay Boy Wonder," Jason said teasingly, "how about a race? First to make to the end of the street using only the fire escape railings wins."
"Okay," Dick replied casually.
The two made a mad dash for the end of the street, Jason knew the streets better than anyone, but Dick was faster. It was a neck and neck battle, but Dick won by a hair.
"Beginners luck," Jason whined.
"Okay, then. Best two out of three?" Dick challenged.
"You're on," Jason replied with equal enthusiasm.
They raced again and again, until the sun began to set and the moon began to rise, and until they were both sweaty and out of breath.
"Again," Jason breathed, trying to push past the exhaustion.
"Sur-…Oh no." Dick noticed the skyline. "My parents are going to go ballistic if they find me missing."
Jason scoffed. "Not mine. Dad's probably gambling money away and mom's probably drowning in who knows what."
"You don't like it at home?" Dick asked, concerned.
Jason shrugged. "There are worse places to live in Gotham."
Their conversation was interrupted by the sound of screaming coming from the darkest corner of the alley. Both boys quickly rushed to the source of the sound. They spotted a couple of men in ski masks, with hand guns pointed at a young couple, fear clearly plastered on their faces.
"All right folks," said one of the men, "I'll make this nice and simple: give us your valuables and you can all go home." The boys could hear the clicking sound of the handgun from their hiding place, "Or don't and you won't be going home at all."
"We should do something," Dick whispered.
"All right, let's go." Jason was about to charge them, but Dick grabbed his wrist to stop him.
"Wait," said Dick, "we can't just charge in there head first. They'll be expecting us."
Jason pulled his arm from Dick's grip. "Then, what do you suggest?" Jason asked, annoyed.
Dick smiled, mischievously. "We surprise them."
Jason smiled back. "I like the way you think Grayson."
The two thugs were about to frisk their frightened victims for valuables, but, as they took their first steps forward, something hit them from the rear. They were being pelted by pebbles, coming from a dumpster on the far side of the alley. The pain they felt was sharp, but it didn't even cause a scratch.
Though only slightly annoyed at the shower of pebbles, one of the men went up to a tiny hidden corner of the alley. His handgun at the ready, he quietly walked up to one of the corners of the dumpster. Even though they were just pebbles, he was extremely cautious but once he got into a comfortable position, he quickly turned to shoot only to find that his target was a cheeky looking little street urchin.
"Hiya fellas," Jason greeted with mock cheerfulness.
The two men were flustered that their efforts were being delayed by a single child, but they weren't planning on letting that stop them. They were about to apprehend him, when one of the men was jumped by another little boy flying from above.
Jason had to hand it to Dick: the guy could make great plans under pressure. He used Jason's inside knowledge of the streets to help them both gain an optimal striking position. Jason struck from the ground and Dick struck from the air. They were like a dynamic duo, they fought so differently yet they fought like they had been doing it together their whole lives, but they were both still so young and with youth often comes cockiness. At first, they looked like they could hold their own with Jason using all his anger and power, and Dick with his agility and intuition, then the two men overpowered the young boys and thrusted them to the ground.
Their prey had run away, but the two men thought that the day wasn't all wasted. At the very least they could still spend the day getting back at the two little runts who ruined their evening.
Both boys had a brave face on, as the men pointed their guns at them, but inside they were quite scared.
"I'm sorry I dragged you into this," Jason said to Dick, sincerely.
"That's okay," Dick replied, "I'm used to getting into trouble. I'm just sorry I never got to know your real name."
As the men were about to pull the trigger, something jumped them from the shadows. A dark figure that looked like it was practically made from the shadows. It was the legendary Dark Knight, the Batman.
Just as the stories said, he pummeled the bad guys without even breaking a sweat. He was just about to drag them to his car, when he noticed the two young boys staring at him in awe.
In response, the Batman simply looked them in the eye and said with the most emotionless face imaginable, "Go home."
"Wow," Dick whispered, still in shock.
"That was the flippin' Batman," Jason added, both enthusiastically and frightened.
"I know," Dick replied.
"He just kicked those guys' butts."
"And he's got the coolest wheels I've ever seen."
After a long day, the two boys made it back to the circus. Exhausted yet excited, they agreed to keep the finer details of their little escapade secret. After all, who would believe that a couple of random kids on the street would be saved by the great Batman?
"Sorry, if I got you in any trouble," Jason said with a slightly stubborn pout.
"It's okay. It's not the first time I've gotten into trouble." Dick looked at Jason with true concern. "You know… if you're having problems at home, I could talk to Mr. Haley or my parents…Maybe they could help you. You could even come on tour with us."
Jason was shocked at his offer. He couldn't remember the last time someone reached out his hand to him like that. Part of him was considering accepting, but then a thought stopped him. "Thanks," Jason replied "but someone has to look out for mom."
"Are you sure?" asked Dick.
"Yeah. I'm sure… Hey, do you think we'll ever see each other again?"
"Sure, we will," Dick affirmed, "We're Bat-brothers, after all."
Jason scoffed to hide his laughter. "Do you have any idea how corny that sounds?"
"Do you have a better one?"
"No, but it's still corny."
The two boys laughed until they couldn't breathe. It had been a long time since either of them had so much fun; it was almost a shame it had to end, but that's what happens to all good things, eventually.
It has been so long, since Dick last saw that boy, if it hadn't been for his parents' death, perhaps they would have been able to see each other again. Well, at least he still had his memories, if only he remember what this John Doe looked like.
Jason found it hard to tell Dick that they've met before. It was so long ago, he probably had forgotten all about it by now. But at least Jason wouldn't forget it; his only regret was that he never gave Dick his real name.
A/N: What do you think? Feel free to review.