"As you no doubt realize, the database has been expanded greatly since your...departure." Tim explained as he sat at the computer terminal with Jason looking over his shoulder. "It will take a great deal of time for you to get back up to speed on the current status of allies, enemies and cases. I suggest spending at least an hour a day studying these, as well as going over past case files. Your marital arts seem not to have suffered too much due to your absence, but your detective skills most likely need to be honed a bit, so the prior cases can act as effective study guides in that regard."
"Are you saying I'm not a good enough detective?" Jason baited.
"If you think you can't be well served by this material, then so be it." Tim replied, exaggerating the level of disinterest in his voice, as he stood up out of the chair and started walking away.
"Wow, a little testy there." Jason egged him on. "Sounds like someone's getting close to their period."
"Up yours Todd!" Tim whirled around. "Unlike you, I take this job seriously! I keep up on the files, which are very valuable! Though the personal file on you doesn't accurately convey what an asshole you are! If nothing else you should take the time to read that one, you might learn a thing or two about yourself."
Jason was taken aback. "You read my file?"
Tim calmed. "Yeah, when I first started training to be Robin. I..." Robin paused.
"You wanted to know how to avoid being like me, huh?" Jason snarled.
"No. I wanted to know what strengths you had that made you good at the job." Tim replied, almost defensively. "And I wanted to know what traits you had that may have gotten in the way. I studied Dick's file too if it makes you feel any better."
"I'm sure you did, but not for the same reasons." Jason continued in his angered tone. "Dick's is the quintessential 'How To', while mine was the 'How Not To', right?"
"I'm not getting pulled into this Jason." Tim replied as he turned away and started walking across the cave.
"I may be hot-headed," Jason called after him, "but at least I don't sulk away like a little bitch!"
Tim spun. "Hey Jason, how are the balls?"
"Fully healed and the size of coconuts." Jason retorted. "How's the ass? The imprint of my boot still there?"
"You can see for yourself when you bend over and kiss it!" Tim snapped.
The two young men stared heatedly at one another for several seconds, the tension waning with each passing second before Jason's mouth twitched, and both of them burst into laughter. "Alright, truce kid. I just wanted to wipe away some of that polish you've got on all the time."
Tim walked back toward the computer and playfully shoved Jason out of his way as he sat back down. "It's not polish, it's called hair gel."
"Whoah, was that a joke?" Jason quipped. "You've definitely adopted the Dick Grayson school of Robinhood."
"At the risk of acknowledging such a horrible pun, I will tell you that Bruce regards not allowing Dick to take an active role in your training as one of his greatest mistakes." Tim replied. "And your file is not altogether unflattering. You were impulsive and hot headed, not exactly newsflashes, but otherwise there was a great deal there for me to admire and learn from."
"But not like Dick's." Jason finally pulled up another chair and sat down next to his successor.
"Dick's amazing, but his case file wasn't that much use to me." Tim explained. "For one, he had fun. Real fun. Not just the exhilaration that we all feel, or the malicious glee we get at beating the crap out of someone who deserves it, but he genuinely had a hoot. I'd love to feel that way, but while I love this job, at least most of the times, it still is a job."
"Yeah, Dick just doesn't seem to be angry or vengeful enough to be in this club." Jason agreed.
"Secondly, one of the main reasons Dick was so successful was his acrobatic skills, which no one on Earth has a chance of matching, not even Bruce. I'd swear the guy was meta if I'd not seen Leslie's medical files on him myself."
"Good to know I'm not the only one who's jealous as hell of the flyboy." Jason smiled. "It didn't take me long to handle myself on the ropes, but the shit he can do is just astounding."
"Yeah, and while I fully intended to take my aerial training very seriously, I knew that Dick's abilities were largely innate. No amount of practice would take me to that level."
"Watta Dick." Jason joked.
"And lastly, I really didn't need Dick's file as I had Dick around to teach me firsthand." Tim looked over his shoulder at the older boy. "I'm sorry you missed out on that, I'd probably have lost my mind if it'd only have been Bruce to deal with."
"Well, I don't know about that." Jason commented. "But you'd likely have been impulsive and hot-headed." The two boys shared a smile, which seemed oddly comfortable given their tumultuous history. "Anyway, one of the big things that surprises me is that Gordon hasn't come out after all these years."
"What?" Tim was stunned. "I may not be at Bruce's level when it comes to detective work, but I'm pretty certain that Jim's straight."
"I'm sure he is." Jason replied. "I was referring to him coming out in regards to knowing Batman's identity. Not publicly, I get why he wouldn't do that, but at least to us...I mean you guys."
"Provided he does know, and I'm not sure he does, I understand why he wouldn't want to acknowledge it; to himself, much less us." Tim paused for a few seconds. "And you are a part of us." Tim extended his hand.
Jason looked at it, but finally accepted it and shook it. "I am sorry for what happened at the Tower Tim...Robin."
"It's forgotten." Tim smiled.
"Oh, I know you've been trying to forget it." Jason grinned mischievously. "I would too if it had been my ass to get kicked that badly."
"Give me time asshole," Tim replied as he turned back to the screen in front of him. "You've got a couple of years on me, and I've got plenty of growing to do. Provided I can get enough sleep that is."
"Rain check then." Jason chuckled.
"Good to see you two interacting without killing one another." Bruce said as he approached the terminal, startling both of the young men.
"Good to see you're still into making creepy entrances." Jason retorted.
"Here." Bruce tossed a box to Jason. The young man had to twist in his seat to catch it, and then set it down on the terminal in front of him and opened it. Inside was his an altered version of his Red Robin costume. "I've made some tweaks. I've also selected a new name for you. I can't have two Robins working with me, makes things too confusing. And the precursor 'Red' just isn't adequate. Going forward you will be known as Raptor."
Jason pulled his suit out of the box and noted the shade of red had been darkened, the black cape was a dark brown, a beak formed over the nosepiece on his cowl, and a series of small equipment compartments shaped like a pair of talons were over his chest armor. "Cool. I've come a long way from the gay-ass short-shorts and pussy bird name." He looked at Tim. "But the name works for you."
"Thanks." Tim grumbled.
"Try it on, get accustomed to it, and then put it away." Bruce advised. "You leave for Monaco in the morning, and you've got a lot of digging to do between now and then. Sasha's agreed to give you a lift."
"I still can't get over you needing a bodyguard." Jason chuckled.
"Lucius threatened to quit if I didn't agree to it." Bruce replied humorlessly.
"Alright, Cheyenne's on board." Dick called out as he too entered the cave. "I explained the entire situation. She may not be a candidate for the future Mrs. Grayson, but I respect her enough not to use her as an unwitting pawn."
"Yeah, he definitely doesn't belong in this club." Jason joked.
"OK." Dick replied confused, but not interested enough to ask what Jason was referring to. "Now excuse me, I've got to break things off with Deb."
Like with virtually all of Bruce's plans, things had gone off without a hitch. The picture of him greeting Dick and Cheyenne at the door of the villa had been on the cover of The Daily Star, and a former classmate that had moved to Metropolis quickly recognized him. The story was picked up immediately by Clark Kent of The Daily Planet, and in a matter of days Jason Todd and Bruce Wayne had made their reunion amid a media circus at the Gotham International Airport. Bruce came across as a confused, yet loving and unquestioning father. Jason met his brother Tim for the first time at the Airport, and eldest son Richard was interviewed relentlessly, as being aware of the situation, and enabling it to take place, he was seen as the bad guy. As much as he didn't want to end up like Bruce, he was developing the same irresponsible rich kid with poor judgment reputation that had followed Bruce throughout his entire adult life. But Dick seemed to be weathering it. At least the grin on Nightwing's face didn't betray anything but pure joy as the three men to have at some time held the title Robin stared out over Gotham together. Nightwing turned to Raptor and noted Jason smiling back. "Thanks Dick. This..." Raptor turned to Robin and gripped his shoulder warmly. "This feels right."
"You and I should have done this a lot more before you were..." Nightwing shrugged. "Well, let's make up for lost time." Dick then turned to Tim. "Alright Robin, this is your city now, Raptor and I are leaving for New York in the morning, so why don't you show us around?" The sixteen year old smiled, stepped to the edge, aimed his decel line, fired and flew out into the night, immediately followed by his brothers.
From atop a skyscraper several blocks away, a dark figure watched on, an uncharacteristic smile etched on his face. This was how it should be.