He's running as fast as he can across rooftops, trying to get to Jason as quickly as possible. Just this once, Tim wishes he had asked for details. He hates walking into the unknown, but he didn't want to alarm the team. After all, Tim really didn't think having a bunch of meta humans and Robin descending on Jason's rundown apartment was a good idea. Most kids probably would have been ecstatic to see all of the teen heroes, but Tim is fairly certain Jason isn't one of them. He gets to the apartment building where he had walked Jason to the week before and does a perimeter check before making his way up the outside of the building to the correct window. Making sure to stay out of sight, Tim glances through the uncovered window into the dim apartment. There doesn't seem to be anything amiss, and Tim really doesn't want to startle Jason, so he knocks lightly three times on the windowpane.
He can hear shuffling from inside before Jason's young face is staring at him in astonishment. He gestures for the boy to open the window, and Jason complies almost immediately. The moment the window is open, Jason steps aside to let him in. "Jesus, you're creepy. Who the hell uses windows, you nutter?" Once Tim is fully in the window, Jason busies himself with closing it and locking the little black plastic latch at the top. "And…you came."
Jason sounds honestly surprised that Tim showed up, which probably says far more about the boy than Tim ever wanted to know. "Windows are the best point of entry to any building. Even Batman thinks so, and of course I came. I said I would, didn't I?"
Jason shakes his head as though he can't really believe what he's seeing. "Yeah, but people say shit like that all the time. It don't mean squat."
Tim sighs and mourns the fact that he can't run his fingers through his hair with the cowl on. "First, no kid your age should be using that kind of language, and second, it's 'it doesn't mean squat'."
Jason shrugs. "Whatever, I didn't call you here for a lecture and a grammar lesson, smarty pants."
Tim ignores Jason's jibe as he sets his jaw. "Why did you call me, Jason?"
Before Jason can say anything the window explodes as a body crashes through it and there's the sound of glass shattering. Tim immediately dives on top of Jason, making sure that his cape is completely protecting them both from the shards. He doesn't even get a second to register what just happened before a very familiar voice is scolding him. "I can't believe you ditched us for this kid. How the heck did you even meet him? You've only left the HQ once."
Tim shakes out his cape as he stands and faces a very angry looking Robin - keeping Jason behind him - and reminds himself to schedule more training for Dick. Clearly, they need to work on why it's a bad idea to rush in without all of the facts first. "Should I even bother asking how you found me?"
Dick honestly looks smug as he crosses his arms over his chest, and Tim can feel Jason tensing behind him. "Batman had me put tracers on your suit the first time we sparred. I hacked them and followed you."
Tim sighs heavily. He really should have seen that one coming. It's what he would have done, after all. "Of course, you did, but why did you follow me?"
Dick's cheeks color slightly, and he actually looks a bit sheepish now. "I…I thought B needed help and called you instead of me." The admission makes Tim's stomach roll, and he reminds himself to have a long talk with Dick once this is all over. "But that still doesn't explain who the kid is or how you met."
Tim steps aside, allowing the two boys to see each other fully. "Robin, this is Jason. I saved him from The Joker last week and he needs my help again, which is why I'm here."
Dick's eyes obviously widen behind the mask, and he suddenly looks quite embarrassed about all of this. "Um, hi, sorry about your window, but whatever's going on we'll be happy to help."
Tim's about to protest, but he doesn't have it in him to send Dick away, especially not if he's so worried that Bruce is going to replace him, and Tim figures it might be nice to have some backup for a change. Jason, on the other hand, doesn't seem all that impressed with Robin, and merely glares at him. "Right, sure, like you're really going to help."
Tim interjects before the two of them can get into a fight. He kneels down in front of Jason and grabs a hold of his shoulders. "Hey, I promise I'll do everything I can to help you, but you have to tell me what's going on, okay?" Jason is still staring at him skeptically, so Tim digs into one of the pockets on his belt and pulls out the toy soldier. "I promise to keep you safe, just like I promised to keep him safe. Got it?" Tim tucks the little figurine back into his belt as he waits for Jason's answer.
Jason nods before biting his lip and he looks really damn anxious, which in turn makes Tim nervous. If the boy got himself into something big, he might have to call in the rest of team, if not Batman himself. Jason breathes out a heavy sigh before setting his shoulders. "It's…it's my mom. She's been missing for a week. I checked her normal haunts and asked around to the other girls, but no one's seen her. I even went down to the clinic, but she hasn't been there in a month. I don't know where else to look, and this isn't like her. Sure, she's disappeared for a few days before, but never this long, and…and you have to find her."
Tim doesn't get a chance to say anything before Dick wraps his arms around Jason in a bone crushing hug. "Don't worry. We'll find her. I promise." He pauses for a moment before continuing. "And I'll have that broken window fixed, too."
Jason instantaneously goes stiff in Dick's arms - not that Dick seems to notice - before he numbly nods his head. Tim gets to his feet and instantly starts examining the apartment. "When and where was the last time anyone saw your mother?"
Jason blinks a few times before answering, and then tries to pry Dick off of him to no avail. "Um, Gale said that she saw her come into the convenience store down on 7th last Friday night, but no one has seen her since."
Tim hums to himself while he catalogs everything that he can see from his position in the middle of the bedroom, and gestures for Dick to let Jason go. There's only one mattress with a sheet thrown haphazardly onto it on the floor and a pile of patchwork blankets in the corner next to numerous heaps of clothes pushed up against the wall. The clothes - from what Tim can tell - are mostly Jason's, but there are a few articles of his mother's mixed into the piles. The walls are bare with nothing but peeling wallpaper to decorate the room. "And when was the last time you saw her?"
Jason seems only too relieved to have Dick let him go, which makes Tim want to laugh, but he needs to focus on the job. "Friday morning before she went out for a pack of cigarettes."
Tim glances down at Jason, and doesn't bother to ask why Jason didn't call him sooner. Jason's used to not having his mother around. It's apparent from the state of the apartment and the fact that Jason is so self-sufficient. "Do you mind if I have a bit of a look around? I'm just trying to trace her last steps."
Jason shakes his head, and gestures for him to have at it. Tim heads straight into the bathroom first, taking note of the various pill bottles ranging from full to empty to nearly empty and their expiration dates. He recognizes most of the names on the bottles, and makes a mental note to look up the ones he doesn't. The cracked mirror on the front of the medicine cabinet has flecks of blood on it suggesting that someone's fist put it there. There's a single bottle of generic shampoo with matching conditioner in the shower with an almost finished bar of soap, and one towel hangs over the shower curtain rail. The curtain itself looks as though it's seen better days. The only window in the bathroom is too dirty and too small for anyone to have come or gone through.
Tim then checks the kitchen, taking stock of what's in the cupboards and how much food Jason has left. There's isn't much. He's pretty much down to a jar of peanut butter, some stale crackers, and a few expired canned goods. The kitchen is the only room that is relatively clean, suggesting that no one really uses it to cook, which isn't surprising. If Jason is left to his own devices more often than not, which is what the evidence suggests, Tim doubts the boy wastes much time on attempting to cook things, when he can just stick to simple things like peanut butter and jelly. Also, Tim doubts he often has enough food to make more than that.
Tim makes his way back into the bedroom where Dick and Jason are sitting on the beat up old mattress on the floor whispering to each other. He clears his throat to get their attention and they both stare up at him with big wide eyes. "Jason, I'm going to need you to write down all of the places that you looked for your mom, and anywhere that was ever important to her. I need to know where she would go if she needed to lie low for awhile and any of those types of places." He waits for Jason's nod, before he hands him a pen and paper. He gives Jason a few moments to compile his list, and when he finally hands the pen and paper back, Tim stares him directly in the eyes. "Now, I need to know if you have any friends or neighbors you can stay with until we find your mom."
Jason folds his arms over his chest indignantly. "I can take care of myself."
Tim smiles at him in a very disarming way. "I'm aware, trust me. But I don't feel right leaving you here by yourself, with a broken window, no less."
Jason huffs out a breath, evidently unhappy with the stipulations. "There's no reason for me to be a burden to my friends."
Tim shakes his head and sighs, but before he can protest Dick interrupts him. "If they're really your friends, then they won't see you as a burden."
Tim can't hide his smile, because it's just so very Dick. Of course, he always knows the right thing to say…no matter his age or what universe they're in. "Robin's right, you know? Now, do you have someone to stay with or…"
Dick jumps up at that. "Or we could take him back to HQ. I'd bet he'd love being around the team."
Tim rubs the back of his head as he tries to find a delicate way to let Dick down, but Jason gets there first. "Why the heck would I want to hang out with your friends? They're probably just as weird as you."
Dick doesn't seem to understand the problem with that and merely smiles. "Nah, they're weirder."
Tim shakes his head at both of them. "Jason can't come back to HQ with us. It's covert for a reason, remember?" Dick seems to deflate for a moment, before Tim continues. "But I'm sure you have a friend who would love some company his own age, right Robin?"
Dick's eyebrows furrow beneath the mask for a moment before he finally deciphers the meaning. "Oh, right, right. I do have a friend who would love to hang out with you, Jay. That is, if you want."
Tim doesn't know why he's surprised that Dick is already using a nickname for Jason, but it catches him off-guard, all the same, and Jason just stares at Dick skeptically, seemingly unfazed by the nickname. "One of your weird friends?"
Dick shakes his head. "Nah, he's pretty normal, all things considered."
Jason's eyes narrow at that. "What things considered?"
Dick laughs and pats Jason on the back. "Well, he grew up in a circus, so he's a little weird, but not the bad kind of weird."
Jason shakes his head and crosses his arms over his chest again. "Nah, I'd rather just stay here."
Tim heaves a large breath and lets it out slowly. "Well, that's not an option, and, since you aren't being forthcoming with a name of someone you can stay with, it looks like Robin's friend is the only choice."
Jason sighs and scuffs his shoe against his floor a couple of times before making his decision. "Mrs. Miller down the hall will watch me. She's offered before, but I can take care of myself."
Tim rolls his eyes at Jason, even though he can't see it. The kid's reiteration that he's self-sufficient is only one more reason for Tim to find him some place to stay. "Okay, well, let's go see if Mrs. Miller is home, shall we?"
Jason makes a fuss the entire way out of the apartment and down the hall, but once Tim knocks on the door of what Jason indicated to be Mrs. Miller's door, the kid instantly falls silent. After a few moments of waiting, the stained and warped wooden door creaks open to reveal a short, hunched over, woman with white hair. She has a crooked wooden cane and she glances up at Jason with a tired smile. "Jason, how are you doin', my boy? Haven't gotten yourself into any trouble, have you?"
Jason gives a small grin back. "Hi, Mrs. Miller. I'm fine, and no more than usual."
Before either of them can exchange anymore pleasantries, Tim clears his throat and smiles shyly at the old woman, trying not to startle her with the fact that two vigilantes are standing at her door - one that isn't even from this earth. "Hello, Mrs. Miller. I was wondering if you could watch Jason for a few days. He's all by himself right now and I don't feel right leaving him in an apartment with a broken window."
The woman tilts her head back far enough to see Tim's face, and, to Tim's surprised, doesn't even seem bothered by the fact that he's in full costume. It makes Tim question her eyesight, or wonder if she's just used to seeing the cape crowd around this area of Gotham. She nods before turning back to Jason. "And how exactly did the window get broken?"
Dick steps forward slightly as he flushes with embarrassment. "Um, that would be my fault, ma'am. I got a little overzealous while following my friend over there, but don't worry. I'm gonna fix it."
Mrs. Miller gives him a sharp nod. "You better, young man." She suddenly turns her attention back onto the center boy. "Now, come on in, Jason. I've got some fresh baked cookies that you and your friends can help me eat."
Tim smiles politely at the woman. "Actually, Robin and I should be on our way, but thank you for the offer."
She shrugs as much as she can, hunched over the way that she is. "Suit yourselves. Come along, Jason. Tell your friends goodbye. I know you'll eat some of my cookies. You always do."
Jason shakes his head and waves his hands back and forth. "They're not my friends."
Dick huffs out a breath and punches Jason in the shoulder. "Of course, we're your friends. Now, go eat cookies while we go find your mom."
Jason shuffles inside of the apartment and waves at them both before shutting the door. Tim heads back into Jason's apartment, taking one final look around before turning to Dick and grinning. "So, are you ready to fly, Robin?" It feels weird saying it as opposed to hearing it, but Tim doesn't let that affect his smile at all.
Dick beams back at him brightly as he spreads his arms out while holding his cape to make it look like wings. "You betcha, Red Robin." He abruptly drops his arms and deflates slightly. "Although, I don't know how I'm going to explain that broken window to Batman."
Tim chuckles softly to himself. "Tell him it was an occupational hazard." They both laugh as the launch themselves out of Jason's broken window.
The End (for now)