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Summary: The shadow of the glass case before him fell over Tim. He wondered why he'd never realised how large that shadow was, until then. Oneshot. Inspired by preview images of "Satisfaction". Gen.
A/N: The hiatus is ending in almost two days!
Preview images and clips were released yesterday for the first episode immediately after the hiatus - season 2, episode 8, "Satisfaction". Reaction #1: CROCK FAMILY FEELS! Jade named Lian after Artemis. Artemis Lian Crock. If that didn't give me feels, nothing would. Reaction #2: Speedy!Roy and Jade are out for blood. Whoops. Reaction #3: IS THAT A JASON TODD MEMORIAL NEXT TO ARTEMIS AND TULA AND TED KORD MEMORIALS IN MOUNT JUSTICE?!
Jason has been confirmed to have existed in Earth-16. I can die happy now. So here's a drabble to vent my emotions. (...Well, it started as a drabble. Then it ended up being oneshot length. Oops.) Just assume that here, Tim has already been adopted by Bruce. |'D
A Cold Shadow
Dick Grayson flexed his hand as he pulled on the gauntlet, and smirked as he placed the new domino mask over his azure eyes, where it clung to his face with spirit gum. Nightwing was appraising his new garb in his reflection in the monitor of the Batcave's supercomputer when Alfred Pennyworth arrived at his elbow with a tray bearing three, steaming mugs of coffee.
"Hey, Alfie. What do you think?" Nightwing gestured to himself - the combination of spandex and light armour to offer both protection and flexibility; painted mostly black, but with a stripe of brilliant, Robin's egg blue forming a bird insignia across his chest. At a glance, the costume gave the impression that the fourteen-year-old was older than his true years. "Better than the whole 70s get-up Miss M designed, don't you think?"
"Indeed it is, sir. Master Aqualad and yourself have shown some remarkable design skills." Alfred gave Nightwing one of his fond smiles as he handed him a mug. "It truly is an auspicious day for both yourself and Master Jason."
"Hey, speaking of, where's -"
A flash of red flickered in the corner of his eye. Moments later, Nightwing felt two fingertips between his shoulder blades, and grinned.
Nightwing cackled as he turned to face Jason Todd, who was holding his index and middle fingers to his chin as if blowing smoke from the barrel of a gun. The change was almost shocking - the new Robin costume, red and black, fit Jason's small (even for an eleven-year-old) form perfectly, transforming him from scrubbed-up street kid to Boy Wonder, crimefighter extraordinaire. "You got me, Jason. How does the cape feel?"
"Are you kidding me?" Laughing, Jason whirled around and began to spar with the air, throwing expert kicks and right hooks. There was virtually no drag from his clothing; it flexed with him like a second skin. "This rocks! I'm Robin, the Boy Wonder!" He finished with a flashy backflip. What a show-off. Dick could not be prouder. "You just wait, Wingding," Jason teased, flexing his muscles. "Soon as the boss gets here, I'm gonna go kick more ass than you ever did as Robin."
"I'm betting on it."
Tim Drake's fingers paused over the DVD rack, at a case whose spine read: 'Pride And Prejudice'. He cocked an eyebrow and looked over his shoulder towards Dick - Dick was busy bringing the television to life and scouring the sofa for a sign of the television remote (Nine years of training from the World's Greatest Detective and he can't find the TV remote?).
"Never thought Bruce was into Jane Austin," Tim remarked. His words rasped through his sore throat, muffled slightly by the cold that was keeping him on the ground tonight, instead of patrolling the rooftops of Gotham with Batman as Robin (Dick had offered to keep him company whilst Bruce went off to do the Dark Knight gig). When Dick looked up curiously, Tim brandished the DVD in the air. "Or is this one of Alfred's?"
Tim blinked. Why had Dick frozen like that?
A shadow flitted across Dick's expression; Dick straightened up from rocking back on his heels on the floor by the sofa.
Dick started as if jolted out of a reverie; he chuckled, though it didn't sound right. "Sorry, Tim. What were you saying?"
"I'm just wondering who's..."
"'Pride And Prejudice'?" Dick rubbed the back of his neck, wearing a sad sort of smile - as if remembering happier times. "That was...Jason's. His favourite book. He always said that the film never did it justice...but he used to watch it anyway."
Swallowing a lump that had formed at the top of his throat, Tim looked back to the DVD. 'Pride And Prejudice', huh? Jason Todd had a favourite book. Somehow, that made him seem more tangible.
When Tim glanced back to Dick, it was just in time to catch a glimpse of a faraway look in his older brothers blue eyes, which Dick quickly secreted away (but not quickly enough). As if he were looking at Tim, but not seeing Tim.
Tim quickly replaced the DVD on the shelf and reached for 'Zorro' instead.
The shadow of the glass case before him fell over Tim. He wondered why he'd never realise how large that shadow was, until then.
Tim had never know Jason - he was almost like a legend, a martyr, who'd risen from the gutters of Gotham to become something better, admirable, only to be struck down by one of Batman's greatest foes. Dick spoke as if he could have done no wrong. If Tim hadn't followed the Dynamic Duo religiously as a kid, or seen the looks in Alfred's and Dick's and Bruce's and certain members of the Team's eyes when the second Robin was brought up, he might have doubted his existence entirely.
The costume erected within that case wasn't dissimilar to Tim's own, and Dick's before him - red and black, with a black and gold cape. If Tim stared hard enough, he could almost see the owner of that costume filling out the Kevlar, like an imprint - a ghost. Smirking, taunting. Who's that kid wearing my colours?
"How can I do this?" Tim whispered. The implication behind the words was heavy. How do I prove I'm good enough? How do I earn Robin like you did?
As if the costume would give him the answers he needed.
"Then what're we waiting for?" Artemis strummed the string of her collapsible bow and stretched it taut as if aiming an arrow. Her grey eyes sparkled at the promise of a challenge. "I've been cooped up in this Cave for way too long."
"Miss Martian," Aqualad said with that assured authority of his, looking pointedly at M'gann. "Prep the Bioship and set coordinates for Gotham City. Team, deploy."
The Justice League's (ever-growing) covert ops team headed towards the hangar - Miss Martian and Superboy at the head, Kid Flash (slightly too old for the title now, but still wearing the yellow outfit) slinging his arm around Conner's shoulders; Aquagirl and Tempest at Kaldur'ahm's heel; Zatanna, Rocket and Artemis side-by-side.
Robin strode ahead of the lot of them, before turning on his heel and walking backwards, facing the rest of the Team with his hands on his hips, a smug smirk playing on his lips.
"Just follow my lead, guys. Gotham's my territory."
"Then what am I, Bird Boy?" Artemis piped up. "Chopped liver?"
"Robin," Nightwing called out, interrupting their banter before Robin could put his foot in his mouth. Seeming slightly annoyed, Robin stopped walking. "Could you come here a sec?"
Robin strode over to Nightwing as the others made to depart (not before pulling a face at Artemis, who promptly pulled one back, then laughing as he and Artemis mentally high-fived). He fixed Nightwing with a questioning look. "You've already told us the mission, Wingding. Can I go?"
"Not yet. Look, what you said...you're right. Gotham is our territory. Artemis', too, but she doesn't know it as well as we do."
"Is there a point to this, or...?"
"You know the risks of this mission. I trust Kaldur to try his best, but try to make sure that they're careful."
"You know me. Careful's my middle name."
"Jason. This is serious." Nightwing placed a hand on Robin's shoulder. "Just...just don't die, okay?" His tone was light - almost too light, too forced, with a hidden weight behind them. For a moment, Robin's cocky expression faltered.
Then it returned again, with full force; Robin pushed Nightwing's hand away and offered a winning, confident grin. "Psh, I'll come back. You just watch me." Nightwing didn't seem convinced. Robin rolled his eyes. "Hey, it's only the Joker. We've dealt with him before. I mean, how bad can it be?"
"Gamma always gets the soft gigs..."
Lagoon Boy muttered darkly as he turned away from Nightwing with Blue Beetle in tow. Robin was just trying to decide whether he liked getting 'the soft gig' or not as he moved to follow La'gaan when Nightwing caught his wrist. "Tim. You'll be running Gamma."
This caught Robin off-guard. "Me? Dick, I've never lead a squad before."
"Making this a good opportunity to get your feet wet as a field leader."
He became a shade skeptical. "Because it's Gamma and you're not expecting trouble, or because we're stretched thin and you have no choice?"
Robin thought he'd caught Nightwing out here. The man turned his eyes away from Robin's as if ashamed, black locks falling over his eyes. Nightwing's next words, however, sent a shiver snaking down his spine.
"Just don't die, okay?"
It would always come back to that, wouldn't it?
Suddenly cold all over, Robin's eyes widened. Nightwing carried on: "And no unnecessary risks to the squad. That's an order."
Robin recognised the weight on his shoulders. Responsibility. He was no stranger to it (he'd always been labelled 'the responsible one'). That didn't mean that he enjoyed it. He shifted slightly as it rested on him, then when it was settled, he nodded solemly, accepting the burden.
Before disappearing down the hallway to the hangar, Robin stole a look back. He also recognised that facial expression that Dick was regarding him with - it told him that for a brief moment, Nightwing was imprinting someone else's features and personality onto his face in his mind.
Not for the first time, Robin wondered who Nightwing really saw behind his mask.
A/N: The first flashback is a mix of headcanon and the flashback at the end of the animated "Batman: Under The Red Hood". The second flashback is mostly headcanon. The last section is set during season 2, episode 1, "Happy New Year".
Always welcoming constructive criticism!