A/N: Okay, last chapter. And I just want to say thank you to everyone who took the time to review throughout. Words can't describe how much I appreciate it but I really, really do. Oh, and kudos to everyone who spotted the Supernatural nod in the last chapter; that was deliberate. :)
Now, in response to a number of queries; no, Jason does not make things right with his Bruce in this story. However, I do intend to write a sequel (hopefully by Christmas) and Jason's Bruce will make an appearance then. I had so much fun writing this that I decided I would like to pen a few stories in this universe if the pot bunnies rampaging through my brain will allow me.
Anyhow, final chapter, so enjoy. :)
Jason leaned against the hood of the sleek, black Lexus with his arms crossed, ignoring the curious stares swivelling in his direction. He was well aware that Gotham society was buzzing with gossip about the mysterious young man who had arrived suddenly in the city and become part of Bruce Wayne's security team at Wayne Enterprises.
His presence created a sensation because it was widely known that Bruce Wayne did not employ just anyone to be part of his security team; stringent background and security checks were required, as was rigid training and intensive psychological evaluations. After all, Bruce was a very wealthy man who could little afford to trust others. Jason knew it had stunned many people that a stranger with no past – a ghost really – was suddenly a senior member of one of the most elite security teams in Gotham.
But the biggest shock of all, and the one that had really set tongues wagging, was that he had been entrusted with the personal safety of Bruce Wayne's ward, Dick Grayson. No one had ever been given that role before. Bruce had only trusted himself or the Butler who raised him.
Jason tilted his head and frowned behind his sunglasses. He had been concerned that his presence would raise too many questions – still was concerned – but Bruce had pointed out that Dick's most recent 'kidnapping' would be answer enough for most people as to why he had suddenly recruited someone.
To explain the injuries that Joker had inflicted on Robin, Bruce had come up with the cover story that Dick had been kidnapped, and was beaten by his abductor before Bruce could pay the ransom. Leslie Thompkins had provided detailed case notes on the boy's injuries (removing any evidence of the sickening knife wounds to his arms) so that Gotham PD would not have to question the teenager. Bruce hadn't wanted to put him in the difficult position of having to lie about his ordeal. He had also gone to great lengths to keep Dick out of the spotlight of the media frenzy that followed once word of his supposed kidnapping broke. The media attention did have one advantage, however; it added credibility to Bruce's sudden decision to hire personal security for Dick.
The job had been Jason's choice. He knew Bruce would have no problem providing for him here, but he wasn't comfortable with just taking money from the man – he wanted to earn it. When he told Bruce how he felt, the billionaire had suggested he work as a senior advisory consultant to the security team at Wayne Enterprises. Part of his job would involve escorting Dick in public when Bruce and Alfred were unable to do so.
He had to hand it to Bruce; putting him in a security position was a smart move. Aside from being the only thing Jason really knew how to do, it was also the type of career that sometimes required a certain level of discretion or secrecy, meaning Jason could be as vague as he liked about his past. Moreover, Bruce could now use Jason as a conduit for some of the security measures he wanted to incorporate at Wayne Enterprises. Bruce Wayne may be a corporate giant and tech expert, but he did not have the military background required to explain his vast knowledge of security operations and protocols. With Jason now working as an advisor on his security team, Bruce could utilise his knowledge via Jason.
Another smart move was assigning Jason as bodyguard to Dick. Doing so gave the public an answer as to who he was and why he was suddenly hanging around the boy. It also had the added advantage of Jason actually providing security for Dick.
As Robin, Dick could defend himself against most threats. But as Dick Grayson he had to appear as just a regular teenager or risk exposing his secret identity, making him vulnerable to potential kidnappers; a very real threat with Bruce being who he was. However, should the situation demand it, Jason in his role as bodyguard could break as many arms as he liked to defend Dick and no one would question it. His presence would be particularly important for the next few weeks while Dick recovered from his injuries. Which brought Jason back to why he was currently propped against one of Bruce's cars outside Gotham Academy, surrounded by ill-disguised whispers and curious stares; today was Dick's first day back at school after being tortured by the Joker.
Bruce had wanted to pick him up, but a very important meeting had run over at Wayne Enterprises so he had sent Jason instead. This being his first appearance in the role of 'bodyguard,' Jason was creating quite a stir. He could practically feel the multitude of interested stares boring into him. Some parents had clearly no clue as to who he was, while others had obviously guessed, but were baffled as to why Bruce Wayne had chosen this man of all people to ensure the personal security of his charge. And Jason was drawing more than just curious stares; one or two suspicious frowns had also been levelled in his direction.
"Can I help you, Sir?" asked a tall, well built man in a dark suit, joining him at the car.
Jason sized him up; probably a teacher, definitely a snob. He was looking at Jason as though he considered him a very nasty smell.
He grinned to himself. He supposed he did look very out of place in his leather jacket and biker boots among the well-heeled elite of Gotham. "No thanks. I'm fine."
The man frowned. "Sir, I'm very sorry but we have a slight problem. You see, this is not a public parking spot. It's the school's private pick up point for parents and guardians."
"Then I'm afraid I must ask you to move."
"Did it ever cross your mind that I'm here to pick up a kid?"
The man blinked and Jason could tell that it clearly hadn't. "Sir, we don't allow anyone to pick up the children of Gotham Academy without the express permission of a parent or guardian."
Jason was amused. "Is that right?"
The man looked irritated now. "Yes, it is. And I really must insist that you leave."
He laughed. "Relax, Chuckles. I'm here legitimately with permission to pick up Dick."
A flicker of realization dawned in the man's eyes. "Dick Grayson? Mr. Wayne did mention that Dick would have some personal security upon his return. However, I was under the impression that it would be Mr. Wayne who was collecting Dick this afternoon."
"Bruce got held up in a meeting. He had Alfred call ahead to let the school know that I'd be picking Dick up instead."
The man frowned again. "I need to confirm that first."
"You do that."
With a last scowl, the man walked away and Jason rolled his eyes. It didn't bother him in the slightest that the man would never have approached him if he had been attired in a manner similar to the other occupants of this pick up zone; Jason had never cared much for the opinions of others.
Students were starting to exit the school now, laughing and chattering. Quite a few of them eyed him curiously as they went past, and several of the older girls shot him admiring glances. A couple of the braver ones even winked at him.
Jason chuckled. He was tempted to wink back just for the hell of it, but a little voice in the back of his head cautioned against it.
Two words, jail bait.
Even if he was doing it for fun, he highly doubted the parents of those girls would find it amusing. Besides, he had provided enough fuel for the gossips of Gotham for one afternoon. He returned his attention to the school and spied Dirk Cadwell and his buddies among the throng of students exiting the building. His eyes narrowed and he watched the three teenagers intently.
His visit to each of them the night before had been deliberately timed to coincide with Dick's return to school. It had only been four weeks since the Joker's brutal attack and he was still healing, and very vulnerable. Jason wasn't about to let a bunch of bullies start knocking into him in the hall just because they thought it was fun.
He knew Bruce would be displeased if he was aware of what Jason had done. He had gone a bit over the top when he'd hung Dirk over the edge of the building, but the little punk's smirking expression had enraged him. Besides, Jason had been very careful to find out more about their other victims so that the finger could never be pointed back to Dick. And by the looks of their subdued expressions as they walked past, his little intervention had worked.
Dick was coming towards him, a surprised expression on his face. "What are you doing here? I thought Bruce was picking me up?"
"His meeting ran over." He frowned. "Aren't you supposed to have a teacher walk you out to carry your bag?"
Dick grimaced. "Like that's not embarrassing. Besides, Barbara offered to do it."
It was then he noticed the cute red-head. She had one school bag on her back and another in her arms. She was studying Jason with great interest.
He raised one eyebrow. "Barbara, I take it? Here, let me get that." He took Dick's bag and put it in the back seat of the car. Then he turned back and grinned at her. "So, modern woman carrying the man's bag, huh?"
"If I hadn't, he would have carried it out himself," she replied, shooting Dick an exasperated look.
"Oh really?" He returned his attention to the boy just in time to see him shushing Barbara with one of his splinted fingers. He smiled sheepishly at Jason when he realised he'd been caught.
Jason glared at him. "You are under strict orders not to lift anything heavier than a glass of soda and that bag weighs a ton! What the hell do you have in it anyway? Rocks? Dick, either you let someone carry your bag out or I will enter that school every day and do it for you, capiche?"
Dick looked horrified. "You wouldn't!"
"Oh yes I would, Short-stuff! Leslie gave those orders for a reason."
Dick was channelling his best Bat-glare when they were joined by Commissioner Gordon. "Barbara, honey, you ready to go?"
Barbara Gordon! Jason almost laughed out loud as he made the connection. He wondered if Dick would eventually crush on her in the same way that the Dick Grayson from his reality had.
The officer smiled at the boy. "It's good to see you out and about, Dick. How are you feeling?"
"Pretty good, Commissioner."
"I'm glad. You know that we're going to find the guy who hurt you and put him behind bars, right?"
Dick looked at the ground, shrugging his good shoulder. Jason knew he was uncomfortable lying to the Commissioner and hoped the man wouldn't ask him any questions.
But the Commissioner was more sensitive than Jason gave him credit for. He immediately sensed the boy's discomfort and backed off. "You look after yourself, okay, Son?" he said gently, patting Dick's good shoulder.
He turned to Jason. "You must be Jason Todd. Mr. Wayne told me about you."
The older man was studying him intently. Jason realized he had used Barbara as an opportunity to come over and check him out. It didn't bother him. He knew enough about this man to know that he was a good officer who was only assessing him out of genuine concern for Bruce and Dick.
"I am." He held out his hand. "Nice to meet you, Commissioner."
The officer took his hand and shook it. "Bruce told me you worked abroad before this, is that right?"
He nodded. "I was part of a personal security team for a wealthy family in South Africa. A mutual friend introduced me to Bruce."
"Really? That sounds interesting."
"It was." He could tell that Gordon wanted to ask more questions but his answer was deliberately phrased to prevent that. Bruce had concocted a cover story for Jason; one that allowed him to be vague and which was set in a country where it would be impossible to corroborate the story.
When Jason didn't elaborate further, Commissioner Gordon took the hint and turned to his daughter. "We'd better go, honey. Welcome to Gotham, Jason."
Jason knew he was reserving judgement on him until he got to know him a little better…or found out more about him.
Barbara waved goodbye and the Gordons moved away. Jason opened the passenger door for Dick, shutting it after the boy climbed in. He could see the remaining parents still watching him with interest.
He ignored them, sat into the car and started it up. "So, how was your first day back?" he asked as the car moved out.
"Okay. Everyone kept asking me about my kidnapping though." There was a twang of irritation in his tone. "I wish they'd just let it go."
"Give them a few days and they will," said Jason comfortingly. He cast an eye at Dick. The boy looked a little paler today. "You okay?"
"My ribs hurt," he admitted.
"Painkillers and a bottle of water are in the glove box."
Alfred had put them in there because Dick had refused to bring them with him to school. Jason shook his head. Teenagers could be so pigheaded sometimes.
"Any trouble with those bullies?" he asked casually.
Dick shook his head as he washed the pills down with some water. "No. I thought Dirk would be a real jerk today but he didn't even come near me. And when I met him in the hall, he just turned and ran the other way! It was weird."
Jason suppressed a gleeful grin. "Maybe he feels sorry for you after the kidnapping and that's why he left you alone?"
Dick didn't answer and Jason glanced at him. The boy was watching him with a suspicious expression. "Jason, what did you do?"
"Me? What makes you think I did anything?"
Dick's eyes widened. "You did do something! Jason!"
"Alright, maybe I did. But I didn't hurt the little snot, just had a talk with him. No big deal."
"It'll be a very big deal if Bruce finds out."
"He's not going to find out, and even if he does, there's nothing he can do about it now. Besides, the little punk had it coming."
Dick gave a short laugh. "Jason, you have the weirdest logic I've ever heard!"
He grinned back. "You wouldn't be the first to say that. Now, enough about Dirk the jerk. You up to seeing my new place?"
"You've got somewhere already?" Dick was dismayed. "I still don't see why you can't stay at the manor."
"Because I am too old to be living with Bruce!" He didn't mention that he couldn't exactly bring any potential lady friends back to the manor either. "Besides, I'm supposed to be your personal security. People are gonna start asking questions if I'm there twenty-four seven."
Dick still looked disappointed.
"It's a roof-top apartment with plenty of space," said Jason coaxingly. "Even has a nice roomy guest bedroom if anyone ever wanted to spend the night…"
That got his attention. "Seriously?"
"If Bruce is okay with it."
"I take it that means you'd like to see it?"
"Fancy paying a visit to Inside Scoop afterwards?"
Dick raised an eyebrow and gave him a sly grin. "Before dinner?"
"I won't tell Alfred if you don't."
Dick laughed. "Deal."
Jason grinned, manoeuvring the car through the uptown traffic.
He blinked. Had he just been given a nickname? "Yeah?"
"I'm really glad you decided to stay."
He looked at Dick's happy expression and smiled. "Me too, Kid, me too."