Author's Note: Hoohah, a happy Jason piece. With Richie! I don't think there are enough of these, so I thought I'd contribute to the small group of Jason stories that aren't entirely angst-ridden, though there are plenty of those I love. I never meant to make Dick the 'star' of this piece, but what can I say? The boy's insistent. Enjoy, everyone; feedback is always appreciated!
Warning(s): Jason's mouth. Surprise, surprise.
Disclaimer: I do not own any of the characters mentioned in this work. They are all the property of DC Comics. I'm just taking them for a joy ride.
Revised on November 1, 2013.
He would never, ever, ever admit it, but he looked up to Dick.
When he had still been on the streets, stealing car parts for a living, and he would see Batman and Robin flying across the rooftops, he always imagined himself as the Boy Wonder, leaping and bounding from building to building. He took out the baddies of the city, taunted them with witty one-liners, and even saved Batman's ass on occasion.
Talk about living the dream, he would think, his hand tightening in comfort as his mother suffered through another of her nightly episodes.
So when Batman – Bruce - found him, took him in, and gave him a home – an honest-to-God home – and ultimately deemed him worthy of the Robin mantle, he immediately sought Dick's guidance and support. In a completely subtle manner, of course.
"Hey, Dick! Dick!" This was one of the only times Bruce's first ward had visited the manor since Jason had come. During those far-between visits, Dick always made sure Bruce wasn't anywhere to be seen. And even then, a tension existed that Jason felt more intensely than he cared to think about. Nevertheless, the boy was determined to get all of the time he could with his not-so-secret idol.
Dick slowly turned mid-step, and smiled tolerantly, almost wearily, at the young charge racing down the hallway like a bat out of Hell. He took in the excited visage of the youngster, the disheveled black hair, the sun-darkened skin, and the clear blue eyes that reflected street smarts and a desire for life. At seeing that drive, Dick couldn't help but replace his apathy with a slightly more genuine smile. "Hey, Jason. What's up?"
The boy skidded to a squeaky halt on the polished wood floor, and Dick winced in sympathy for Alfred. "When are you going to teach me all your tricks for being Robin?"
Leave it to the teen to cut straight to the point. Dick sighed and ran a hand through his own dark head of hair. He really thought they had spoken on this already. "There aren't any tricks, Jason; just practice. I've told you that, Bruce has told you that, Alfred has told you that. What's it going to take to convince you?"
Jason rolled his eyes to the ceiling. "I'll believe you when I can do a Superman and leap across tall buildings in a single bound."
Despite himself, Dick chuckled and actually reached over to pat the boy's shoulder, surprising both of them. He had never shown affection for Bruce's new ward, and he certainly hadn't expressed it outwardly. To cover the strangeness of it, he casually removed his hand from Jason's arm and folded his. "Tell you what, I'll make you a deal. If I teach you my 'tricks,' then you have to promise me more training. And actually keep that promise."
At the last part, Jason's spreading smirk dropped, and his mouth formed a slight pout that gave him a uncharacteristic sense of innocence. Dick's grin grew. He'd known Jason would try to find a loophole. If there was anything Bruce didn't need to teach the new Robin, it was how to get out of a sticky situation.
"Deal." Jason's frown remained planted on his face as they turned and made their way to the Batcave. As they came closer, however, the boy's eyes lit up with the same excitement as before, and his mouth morphed into an eager grin. He unknowingly began to bounce slightly, and it reminded Dick of his first days as Robin, the novelty, the exhilaration, the pleasure that came with Bruce's praise.
And now there's this kid. The new Robin. It was odd. When had he started to accept his replacement as something permanent? When had he started to accept his fate as a predecessor, a precursor, a former Robin?
He didn't want to think about it. Instead, he would indulge in Jason's enthusiasm, at least for the moment. He'd deal with these conflicting emotions later, when he wasn't surrounded by the last ten years of his life.
The two of them arrived in the Cave and entered the locker rooms, where they changed into shorts, tank tops, and sneakers. They approached the training area, where Jason immediately ran to the acrobatics arena, climbed up the ladder to the platform, and waited. Dick had barely reached the padded ground before the boy yelled down to him.
"C'mon, slowpoke, get your ass movin'! We haven't got all frickin' day!"
"Quiet down. I'm coming." Yet Jason's zeal was catching, and Dick felt it overtaking him. It had been too long since he had been on the bar, and even longer since he had had a partner to fly with. Maybe this training session wouldn't be quite as tedious as he assumed.
As he powdered his hands and ordered Jason to come down and do the same, the younger boy frowned impatiently. "Why?" he asked.
"Because if you don't, you'll end up with torn muscles, broken bones and a concussion, and then we'll see how well you do as Robin, the Boy Blunder."
He came down.
With their hands properly powdered, both boys ascended again to the platform, and Jason waited petulantly as Dick explained the rules of the trapeze.
"When you take hold of the bar, propel your body forward using your hips, and when you're ready, launch yourself to the next bar. Once you can do that properly, we'll try something more advanced."
"Yeah yeah, I got it. Let's get going already!"
"Calm down. This takes patience and concentration. Just because you have a net and padding below you now doesn't mean you will out in the field. At any moment, your falling into the net could mean your falling into the concrete. So concentrate."
Once again at the risk of bodily harm, Jason suddenly seemed to pay attention. Apparently, he valued his life enough to listen. A healthy habit for him to have, especially in their line of business. The boy grabbed the first bar and waited as Dick checked his grip, then let him go. Already Dick could see the trouble Jason would have. His body was growing quickly, now that he partook in regular meals, and his shoulders were naturally broad. He would need to practice his flexibility and litheness, perhaps participate in exercises that would increase his elasticity. Dick considered telling Bruce, but realized the older man probably already knew all of Jason's weaknesses, just like he knew those of his first ward.
Dick came back to himself as Jason propelled himself forward and reached for the next bar, using his upper arm strength to propel forward. Dick called out his error.
"You're wasting energy. Follow the flow of your body and let it do the work naturally. Don't force it."
He tried, Dick could tell, but the frustration was quickly mounting, and ultimately it won out. Jason slipped and fell to the net below, his curses floating up to Dick's eardrums, and the other boy smiled to himself at the childish grumbles.
Perhaps his pupil needed some added instruction; or even better, a demonstration. Dick rubbed his hands together and reached for the recently discarded bar. After that, it was all natural ability and joyous flight. What was meant to be a tutoring session became a series of flips and twirls, spirals and spins. He relished the wind in his face and the gravity that failed to completely grab hold of his limbs. And for once, he forgot his animosity toward Bruce and remembered the sense of belonging that always took over when he was surrounded by the cave's open air.
When he finally landed with a perfect somersault on the padded floor, he turned to find Jason with his mouth agape, his eyes wide with wonder and awe as he tried to balance himself with half his body still in the net. Dick couldn't help but fill with pride at the boy's astonished gaze.
With those words, the dam broke.
"Holy shit! That was so frickin' awesome! See, I knew you had tricks to show me! There's no way you're just a sidekick!"
Dick started, and his ego took a backseat to shock. Was that what Jason had meant? That his skills were too good for him to always remain the squire to Batman's knight? That his talents guaranteed that his end as Robin was imminent and unavoidable.
Maybe Bruce had known that all along. And maybe this kid - Jason - was keener than Dick had given him credit for.
When he tuned back in to the one-sided conversation, Jason had not ceased in his praises. In fact, he only seemed to be warming up. Fortunately he was interrupted by a warm hand on his head, and as he looked up, he witnessed an equally warm smile on his brother's face, his eyes alight with fondness.
"Thank you, Jason."
The younger man lifted an eyebrow. "…For what?"
Dick's smile widened, and he ruffled the youth's hair.
"For helping me realize something very important."
Needless to say, Jason was still bafflingly confused and wondering what his predecessor had been smoking while he wasn't looking. He certainly hadn't taken Dick for that kind of guy. Wasn't he supposed to be the Golden Boy of the superhero community? Just as he opened his mouth to inquire, Dick removed his hand after one more pat, and promptly released him to head for the showers. He called over his shoulder.
"I think we're done for now. You have a lot of work to do, but with enough practice, you can get better. You did well today."
All previous intentions fled Jason's mind, and his face once again burst into a dazzling grin that Dick swore showed every tooth the kid had. He immediately followed and bounded into the locker room with a whoop, thoroughly dazzled with Dick's praise. After all, the only thing better than a compliment from Dick was a compliment from Bruce, and Jason didn't have forever. He would take what he could get.
As his successor trotted into the bathroom, Dick couldn't help but think that this new arrangement wasn't as horrible as he originally believed. While extremely rough around the edges, Jason Peter Todd had the potential to be something great, that Dick could tell. And even more importantly, he had the heart.
While the animosity between he and Bruce would probably be there for some time to come, Dick no longer felt such strife concerning his replacement. At the very least, it wasn't the kid's fault that he'd come into their lives in the middle of a pissing contest. He decided he would give the boy his blessing and see how far he could go. In the meantime, he would try to find his own place, discover his own identity and become his own man.
It was strange that the very cause for his turmoil had ultimately provided him with the solution. But remembering that heart, that desire to succeed that burned in those blue eyes, Dick felt that eventually, he could get over it, and maybe, just maybe, find a kindred spirit in the process.