A/N: A couple of you asked why Jason is blonde. In the comics he is blonde but dyes his hair to look like the original Robin. He's stopped dyeing it now, all things considered. Jason's backstory is taken from Batman: Under the Red Hood. Note: I'm going to refer to Dick, Jason, and Tim by their given names generally because they were all Robin at one point and it might get confusing! Italics are memories.
NOTE: I've been told Jason's hair was actually originally red by a few people so I have changed it.
10th November 2015
Dick Grayson woke to an endless expanse of black nothingness. At first he couldn't be sure he was even awake the sheer darkness was so absolute. The dull ache permeating through his skull gave him some indication that he was both alive and conscious and he could feel something hard and solid beneath him. His shoulders were stiff and protesting being wrenched behind his back – for how long, he had no way of knowing – and tied securely to what felt like a cold, metal, pole. His hands were similarly incapacitated and the best movement he could manage amounted to wiggling his fingers unhelpfully against one another. With his legs bound together and tied against some other unseen hard object, he had to concede that escape was going to be somewhat difficult. If it was even possible. His utility belt was gone and his feet were bare – so it was safe to say his kidnapper had discovered the hidden knife, and various other gadgets, he typically stashed in his boots.
From the feel of the coarse fabric against his skin, he guessed he was blindfolded and, unless it was an incredibly dense material, the light was probably out as well.
Although he didn't hear anything, he tensed as he sensed a presence somewhere in the darkness. He didn't call out or acknowledge it, feigning ignorance and allowing whoever it was to make the first move. He didn't have to wait long. A light flickered on and suddenly he could make out the fabric wrapped around his eyes, eyelashes dragging against the material as he blinked to adjust.
'Have a nice nap?' His kidnapper enquired flatly.
His voice was so frustratingly familiar and yet Dick just couldn't place it. He almost sounded like…but no, that was impossible; he was dead.
'What do you want with me?' Dick cut straight to the chase.
'Oh I don't want anything with you,' the man said mildly. 'My sights are set on a different type of winged animal altogether.'
So it was the old garden variety kidnap the sidekick to manipulate the hero play.
'Whatever it is, he won't do it.' Dick said confidently and perhaps a little tauntingly. The stiff ache in his shoulders was getting worse but he studiously ignored it.
'Then you will die.' The man said simply though he sounded pissed, his voice tellingly raised in pitch and volume.
'Some things are worth dying for,' Dick, thoroughly aware he sounded like a cheesy bumper sticker, would have attempted a blasé shrug but his shoulders were tied too securely.
'You don't know what you'll be dying for,' the man snapped. 'There isn't a man less deserving of any kind of sacrifice.'
'I'd die for him, any day.' Dick said hotly, unable to allow the man to slander his mentor without rebuttal.
Silence followed his pronouncement, as if his words had affected his kidnapper in some way.
'You may have the chance,' the man said finally. 'You know I've changed my mind,' his voice darkened and Dick could just about feel the malice caressing his words. 'I do want something from you…after all; Bruce may need a little…encouragement.'
He hoisted something in his hands and Dick could hear a dull thud as he swung whatever it was lightly into the base of his palm.
'Just once for now,' the man seemed to be mulling over an idea. 'The memory should be enough.'
There was a few seconds of silence in which Dick braced himself for whatever was coming, and then something was whistling through the air and pain was exploding in his stomach. He buried the pain, refusing to cry out and gritting his teeth to keep from groaning.
'Good,' there was little emotion in the man's voice but Dick identified something fleeting that resembled regret. It was gone so fast that he thought he had imagined it.
'Now smile for the camera, won't you?'
10th November 2015
Batman was silent for a long time, hands braced against the desk and head bowed. Though his face, swathed in the ever-present cowl, seemed devoid of any telling expression it was clear he was struggling. When he finally turned to face them, he was as stoic and as composed as always.
'I will explain,' he said slowly. 'But when this is over, you will forget what is said.' His white gaze seemed to bore deeply into each one of them at the same time and it was impossible to tell where he was actually looking. 'Is that understood?'
One by one they indicated their agreement, though no one spoke. It seemed to clear to all of them that if they did the atmosphere would change irrevocably, and Batman would vanish like a wraith and give no answers. There was silence again, for a short time, before the older man sighed through his teeth and began to speak.
'His name is Jason Todd,' his jaw tightened, 'and he was once my apprentice.'
22nd February 2007
The vestiges of darkness still clung to the streets as the early morning light lanced through windows and sent formless shadows creeping along the deserted alleyways. The air was fresh, crisp with the dawn of a new day, and laden with the melting frost that gave the night its winters bite. It would snow that day, the dark figure could feel it in his bones. As he made his way stealthily across the rooftops, melding with the shadows and sailing, wraithlike, through the cool air, he felt his blood singing in his veins. It was a glorious time to be alive and he was at the height of his prowess. He prowled the city from dusk to dawn, a silent guardian dropping, as if by magic, from the skies to strike fear into the hearts of the corrupt. It was at these times, high on the thrill of a successful patrol, that he could forget the pain that anchored him to the role. It was his curse, but it was also his freedom.
He landed silently on a rooftop, rolling into a crouch and rising in one fluid motion. His cape swept behind him, dancing in the wind, as he strode to the edge of the building and swung over it. He scaled silently down, a black shadow sweeping to the ground as if moving with the sun. His boots left vague imprints in the leftover snow, brown and muddied, that disappeared amongst the countless others that had traversed the street since the last snowfall. A dull sound caught his attention and, as he rounded the corner, he stood, statue-like, by the wall and observed a sight that nearly made his jaw drop. The batmobile, his prized vehicle, was resting on stacks of wood and bricks. Three tires were lined up against the wall, drag lines clear on the ground. From the sound, someone, out of sight from his vantage point, was working on the fourth one. A muffled curse came from behind the assaulted car and Batman moved closer to investigate. He kept close to the wall, hugging the shadows, and walked silently across the street until he was even with the tires. He turned his gaze to the now gingerly attached fourth one and received yet another surprise as the thief was revealed to him. A tiny figure was working furiously on the tire, small hands wielding tools expertly. It was a child – probably Dick's age or maybe a little older. He was wearing what amounted to tattered rags and short red hair hid his face from view. Batman observed for a few seconds, a tiny smile tugging at the corners of his mouth at the audacity of the miniature thief. He took another step forward as a mischievous urge seized him.
'Need some help?'
10th November 2015
'I found him a year or so after I adopted Dick.' Batman used his name, knowing Jason had already given it away. There was also the distinct possibility that Dick had told them all himself – none of them did seem very surprised. 'He was on the streets, living there, and thieving to stay alive. I adopted him, took him in, and eventually had to bring him in on the secret - he was smart enough to figure it out on his own. I trained him, but he didn't become Robin until Dick joined Young Justice and I found myself in need of an apprentice.' His voice was quiet and retrospective, his words precise and measured. It was clear he was giving them only as much information as they needed to know, and reluctantly at that. For Tim, the whole thing was strange and unbelievable. Could there have been another Robin, before him, that he had never known about? He felt a little betrayed, dropping his gaze when Batman seemed to be looking at him.
'He was talented and a quick study,' Batman frowned slightly, 'but he was reckless and aggressive. At first I didn't see it; I thought I could help him. I thought I could make him understand.' He paused and the muscles in his jaw twitched. 'I was wrong. I trained him for five years. It took me that long to realise that he would never understand.'
3rd August 2012
It was the dead of night and excitement hung thick upon the cloying air. Two figures clung to shifting shadows, silent watchers waiting for the right moment to strike. One was as dark and as mysterious as the shadows themselves, the other bright and crisp with plumage dulled by the surrounding darkness. Four men were approaching the spot where they crouched, invisible against their surroundings, laughing and jostling each other as they celebrated their insidious achievements. One, dark haired and bulky, and wearing numerous chains flush against his tanned skin, was boasting to the others. He held a gun loosely in his left hand and was waving it around in illustration as he relived a memory in which he had demanded money from a begging man and, when he had failed to supply it, had taken his daughter and raped her in front of him. He was making crude gestures to the raucous amusement of his fellow criminals. Batman placed a steadying hand on Jason's shoulder as he felt him tense, anger ripping through his body. It wasn't time to strike. They weren't after the men; they were after the leader and relying on them to reveal his location. As disgusting and repulsive as they might be, they weren't to be touched. They drew closer, footsteps loud as they meandered almost drunkenly across the gravel, kicking up loose stones and sending every animal within a ten mile radius fleeing their presence.
'Lucky bastard,' one of them slapped the bulky man on the shoulder. 'You always get the fun ones.' He grinned exposing yellowed teeth and a glinting gold crown on a bottom canine. His voice was high and nasal.
'Boss better 'ave a good 'un for me tonight,' the bulky man said in response. 'That was two days ago, I'm starved.' He leered as they laughed, and licked his lips at the thought.
As they passed their hiding place, Batman felt Jason tense again but was sure he would hold back. He was wrong. Jason moved in a flash, faster than Batman could move to restrain him, and leapt upon the men with a wild cry. Batman cursed as the men scattered in shock and then regrouped upon their attacker, brandishing weapons pulled from their belts. He had no choice; he emerged from the shadows and entered the fray. Jason had taken down one already and was advancing upon the bulky man, his features tight with anger. Batman turned his attention to the other two, easily dodging the swing one took at his head with a wickedly glinting knife. The other levelled a gun at him but he sent a batarang spiralling into his hand and he dropped it with a sharp cry. It took him mere moments to render them both unconscious and he turned to see Jason's opponent – the bulky man – froth red at the mouth and collapse to the ground.
'What have you done?' He swept towards them and dropped to his knees, feeling for the man's pulse. It was silent. Blood was pooling on his chest around the sharp throwing star, white shirt stained, and flecking the chains hanging limply from his neck.
'He was going to shoot.' Jason sounded completely unaffected by the death. In fact, he seemed triumphant.
'Then you should have disarmed him.'
'It was an accident,' he insisted stubbornly. 'He went to shoot me, I just reacted. Was I supposed to let him kill me?' He scuffed his boot against the ground moodily and shot a dark look at his mentor. 'Aren't I more important than the life of such filth?'
'That is not the point,' Batman growled. 'You know we don't kill.'
'Why not?' Jason demanded. 'We lock criminals up every night only to have them walk the streets again within weeks, raping and killing innocent people. Why not rid Gotham of them forever?'
'No man,' Batman said slowly, 'should have the power of life and death over another. It is not our place to judge them.'
'I think it is,' Jason said hotly. 'I think that if we have the means to make Gotham a better place, we should use them. They've chosen their fate,' he gestured to the men lying unconscious on the ground. 'It's our responsibility to deliver it to them. Isn't that why we're doing this in the first place?'
10th November 2015
There was a long stretch of silence in which Batman said nothing at all, evidently lost in a memory. After a while it became almost impossible for Kid Flash to remain silent, he was practically vibrating with the need to do something.
'So what happened? Did he go rogue?'
'…he died.' Batman still sounded far away.
'Wait, he died?' Kid Flash demanded, 'then how, what…'
Artemis punched him harshly in the shoulder though she, too, was wondering how it was all possible.
'Don't interrupt,' she reprimanded him.
Batman seemed to return mentally to the room, steeling himself imperceptibly to continue speaking.
'One of my old enemies – Ra's al ghul – hired a criminal named the Joker to stop me from uncovering his operations. The Joker kidnapped Jason and…killed him.' He paused, jaw tightening. 'I was too late.'
30th October 2012
His heart was pounding in his chest, rapid beats echoing in his ears. The wind lashed against his face as the chilling thrill of fear shot like ice through his veins. He was running out of time. He could hear the roar of the motorcycle beneath him, could feel the grip of the handles beneath his fingers. He was going as fast as he could, but it wasn't fast enough. The landscape was a blur as he sped through it. Up ahead he could make out the distant shape of a building on a hill and he knew Jason was inside. He had to be. The tires squealed as he made a sudden turn and shot up the steep slope, gravel spraying in his wake. He was almost there. He could make it. The building loomed above him, his chest lightened as he allowed himself a brief moment of hope…and then his world exploded in a ferocious storm of blinding light and fire. He could feel the heat burning against his exposed chin, was aware that something had struck him on the side, but he couldn't feel anything. He was frozen, numb with shock. He leapt off of the bike and plunged desperately into the ruins of the building. The heat was overwhelming as he searched. His cape snagged on a piece of debris and tore. All he could hear was the sharp crackle of the flames and the sound of his own, ragged, voice.
Jason never answered him.
A flash of green amongst the orange and yellow caught his eye and his heart clenched in his chest. He rushed towards it, dropping to his knees and, with strength borne of desperation, lifted the stone slabs and threw them aside.
There he was. His hands were tied. His mask was split, his face bloody and beaten almost beyond recognition. His green eyes were closed as if in sleep, dark hair flopping to cover them as Batman shifted him in his arms. He had never looked so small, so broken. His hands shook as he clutched Jason closer, bringing him flush against his chest in a cruel parody of a hug. His raven hair flopped across his face, hiding the blood from view, and for a short moment it was as if it hadn't happened. He dropped his head, tears prickling at the corner of his eyes, and buried his face into the crook of Jason's shoulder.
He was too late.