DISCLAIMER: All recognizable Characters belong to DC Comics.
FAMILY MATTERS (A Linchpin Interlude)
April 09, 09:15 EDT
The rain was falling lightly, tapping the large skylight with a pitter-patter that was accompanied by the heavy base of Foster the People. Jason tucked in the end of the towel he had wrapped around his waist and wiped the fog from the bathroom mirror. Running his hand over his dark, wet locks he frowned when he heard the knocking at the front door.
"It's not that loud!" he yelled out the open door of his bathroom, muttering to himself about annoying neighbours and nosy busybodies. The last of his furniture was moved in two weeks ago and already he had been 'welcomed' to the building by at least a dozen different residents and had two noise complaints lodge against him to the building manager.
When the knock came again, he growled and stormed to the door, throwing it open. "What!?"
A well maintained eyebrow arched in amusement at the greeting. "Not quite the good morning I was expecting," Bruce Wayne grinned at the shocked teen.
Jason stood there, dressed in only a towel and dripping water, and stared at the older man. "What are you doing here?" Honestly, he had expected Bruce sooner than this.
"I wanted to make sure you were okay," Bruce crossed his arms over his chest. "Dick and I were worried about you."
"As you can see," Jason motioned to himself and started to close the door, "I'm fine."
Bruce's hand snapped out and pushed against the wood, keeping the door open while he frowned. "It's been more than three weeks, Jason. I thought we had an understanding. I didn't realize you still intended to get this apartment."
With a resigned sigh, Jason held the door open for the older man. Accepting the silent invitation, Bruce stepped inside and looked around while the boy closed the door. "I'm curious how you were able to rent the space when you're under age or without giving a last name. I'll admit, if I didn't remember you mentioning this place to Dick in the Hospital I would have had a hard time finding you."
"You mean you weren't looking for me?" Jason watched the billionaire inspect the open loft.
The walls were brick, a light tan colour, and the only walls were those enclosing the bathroom. Off to one side of the large room was a modest queen size bed framed by a pair of matching end tables. The middle of the loft was left open, though a Bowflex and several other pieces of equipment were set up just off the space designated for the living room. A single high end reclining chair was set up a distance from a large plasma TV hanging from the wall.
Just to the left of the entrance, directly across from several large bay windows with an amazing view of Monolith Square, was the kitchen space. Newer steel appliances accentuated the dark granite counter tops and a small circular class top table sat a few feet into the loft. Other pieces of furniture dotted the space, but there was nothing personalized about it. The way Jason planned on keeping it.
"I figured you were wanting some space to acclimate," Bruce removed his damp overcoat and draped it over his arm, turning to now inspect Jason. "Dick convinced me last night to see what happened to you. I'll admit: I'm glad you're taking care of yourself."
"Yeah, well," Jason rubbed the back of his head uncertainly and let a rather uncomfortable silence to descend around them.
A moment passed before Bruce sighed and motioned toward the bathroom. "Go get dressed, and then we'll talk."
Several minutes later, a dryer more comfortable Jason exited the bathroom in black jeans and slipping a grey t-shirt over his head. He stopped when he saw Bruce moving about the kitchen. He could smell coffee brewing. "What are you doing?"
Bruce looked up and grinned. "I'm no Alfred, but I do know how to cook. I figured I interrupted your morning routine and thought I'd make breakfast. You're fridge was stocked better than I thought it would, but I've made you an omelette if you're hungry."
There was no masking the confused expression that Jason wore. "Are you for real?"
Turning off the stove, Bruce turned to face the boy and leaned back against the counter. "It's just breakfast."
"You've never made me breakfast before!" Jason snapped.
There was that arched eyebrow again. "You mean, he never made you breakfast before." Bruce sighed before turning back to the frying pan and sliding a near perfectly made omelette onto a plate. "You don't know me, Jason. I'm not him and thanks to you I'm never going to be him."
With a frustrated sigh, Jason slumped into one of the chairs surrounding the table. He scowled up at the man when Bruce placed the plate of food in front of him. He watched as Bruce fixed himself a cup of coffee before sitting across from him and taking a sip. The seconds ticked by before Jason couldn't stand Bruce's penetrating gaze.
"What's your game, Bruce?" He demanded, shoving the plate away.
The man sat his mug onto the table surface. "No game, Jason, I promise you."
"Then why are you here?"
"Because Dick – No. Because I thought you were going to give us a chance and I was disappointed when you never showed up at the manor." Bruce got up from his seat while Jason just stared at him. He moved to where he had draped his coat over the back of the recliner and brought it back to the table. "I don't know you, Jason. I know absolutely nothing about what your life was like before you came here. I can imagine, but I don't like thinking about what I might become in a world where I lost Dick."
"I don't have to imagine," Jason mumbled, though he didn't doubt the civilian Batman had heard him.
"No, you don't," Bruce sat back down with his coat over his lap. "And I can appreciate that it would be hard to distinguish between the two of us. But what you have to realize, Jason, is that in doing what you've done – sacrificing what you have – you've earned a place in Dick's life; and in mine, if you want it."
Reaching into the folds of his coat, Bruce retrieved a large manila envelope. He held it out to the sixteen year old who took it with a wary eye. Opening it, he let the official looking papers slide out and into his waiting hand. The top one was enough to have his breath catching in his throat. "You're serious!"
Bruce nodded. "It took some creative hacking, but Dick was more than happy to help with that."
Jason picked up the California birth certificate and waved it in Bruce's face. "This says my name is Jason Michael Loyd!"
"Given that custody of your younger, alternate self has just been granted to his Aunt, I didn't think you'd be able to go by the name of Todd." Bruce shrugged as if it were no big deal. He met Jason's wide green eyes in complete seriousness. "Loyd was Dick's mother's maiden name."
His mouth dropped open as he gaped at the billionaire. "Mi-o tragi!"
"Language," Bruce reprimanded automatically before blinking at what Jason has just said. "You speak Romany."
"You – the other you – He made me learn it," Jason answered, still stunned at what was being offered him.
Bruce frowned with disapproval. "Is he the one that also has you dyeing your hair?"
Self consciously, Jason ran his hand over the now dry black strands. "How did you know?"
"Your eyebrows are lighter, and the fact that young Jason had a rather distinctive auburn colour."
Jason shrugged as if it meant nothing. "He wanted me to be Robin."
"He wanted you to be Dick," Bruce growled and shook his head in disgust. "He really wanted to use you as a replacement for Dick, didn't he?"
"I could never get the signature Grayson quadruple aerial summersault right," the teen sneered.
Uncharacteristically, Bruce slumped back in the chair. "God, I really turned into a right bastard, didn't I."
Seeing the man's reaction to those revelations, Jason began to understand just how different this Bruce was different from his. He smiled at the man, a tease in his voice as he said, "just a little bit."
Bruce snorted and smirked. "I'm not him."
Jason examined the man for a moment before pulling the plate of omelette toward him. He picked up the fork, took a bite, and shook his head. "I'm starting to see that."
While Jason ate, Bruce explained the rest of the papers. "These go on to say that your grandfather was Mary Grayson's father. Mary's mother never married the man, Mary having been the product of an affair – sadly, this is the truth of the matter though Mary never knew who her father was according to Dick only that his last name was Loyd. Your father, Michael, was her older brother by several years and an only child. He and his high school sweet heart married at a young age and you were born only a few years later. Your mother-"
"Catherine," Jason interrupted stonily, leaving no room for argument.
Bruce nodded and pointed to the maternal name on the birth certificate. "Your mother, Catherine Scott, was killed in a car accident when you were three years of age. Two years later, Michael was diagnosed with Leukaemia and discovered he had a sister. He sought her out when he required a bone marrow transplant. There are medical records and legal documentation to corroborate all of this. Unfortunately, Michael Loyd's Leukaemia returned and with Mary's passing was not able to get the transplant. He passed away two months ago. It's taken this long for California Social Services to find Mary Grayson, and with her own death years ago that left you with one last living relative."
"Dick," Jason shook his head in amazement.
"He's always wanted a brother," Bruce echoed Dick's words. "I can't give him that, but I can give him a cousin. Look, Jason, this identity is iron clad and it's yours if you want it. You can do with it what you want even if that's taking the money you brought with you and running. But before you decide, take a look at the last two pieces of paper."
His plate now empty, Jason slid it to the side and shuffled through the documentation. It was as Bruce said and the details were perfect but not so perfect that someone would question their validity. When he got to the papers in question he frowned. "What is this?"
"It's a choice," Bruce told him seriously. "You can sign one or the other: the guardianship papers, accepting the placement of me as your legal guardian until the age of twenty-one, or the emancipation papers. "
"Completely," Bruce acknowledged. "Though, should you sign the emancipation papers, I have one favour to ask."
"Stick around to play Robin to your Batman until you get your Dickie-Bird back on his feet?" Jason bit his lip after he said it, not having meant to voice his thought.
"No," the other man shook his head. "While I would appreciate the help to continue hide Robin's identity, I won't hold you to that. What I ask, is that you stay in Gotham for Dick. He's asked about you every day since that night you came to the Hospital. I don't know what happened when he was..." Bruce swallowed and cleared his throat. "I know he saw things, Jason, he's told me that much but he won't tell me what. All I know is that he has connected to you and wants to hold on to that."
Jason choked back the lump in his throat uncomfortably. He lifted up the two papers, both lacking only one signature to make them official. "I don't know, Bruce."
"You saved his life, Jason," the man who was Batman said gratefully. "You were there for him when I couldn't be. You protected not just his secrets, but mine as well. Batman may have been a world class jackass in your world, but I would like nothing more than to make you see that I'm not him. I will never be able to thank you for what you've done by just being in this world, Jason Todd, but I would like to try."
Not knowing what to say, Jason chose to remain silent.
"Think about it," Bruce got to his feet and donned his coat. The rain was coming down harder now. "Nothing has to be decided today."
April 11, 14:42 EDT
"That's it, just three more."
Sweat was trickling into Dick's hairline as he lay on his back on the thin blue mat, his physiotherapist leaning over him and helping him stretch the muscles in his slowly healing legs. He exhales sharply through pursed lips as the therapist pushed the fully extended leg back toward his chest, the limb shaking as Dick tried to draw it as close to his torso as possible.
"Good, just a couple more!"
Off to the side of the PT Room of hospital, Jason watched through a pair of dark sunglasses as the kid pushed himself through obvious pain to accomplish something that just a month ago he could have done without conscious thought. Seeing the therapist aide him through his last stretch, Jason started toward the pair.
"Fantastic work today, Dick," the man in his mid-twenties encouraged, handing the now fourteen year old a towel. "We'll have you doing back flips off the high bar in no time!"
"Looking good there, kid," Jason commented as he walked up to them.
"Jason!" Dick exclaimed in surprise. "What are you doing here?"
The older teen chuckled. "What, can't a guy visit is favourite cousin in hospital?"
The expression of sheer joy on the dark hair hero's face was totally worth it. "Oh, uh, Andrew, this is my cousin Jason Loyd; Jason, my PT Trainer Andrew Hersikorn."
The two shook hands and Andrew smiled. "Do you need me to help you back to your room or can I leave you in the familial hands of your Cousin?"
"I think I got this, dude," Jason said casually, motioning to the wheelchair he noticed not far from where the pair was working. "I'm assuming that's for Dick?"
Dick frowned. "I don't see why; I walked down here on my own."
"That was before I worked you for more than an hour," Andrew pointed out, helping Dick into a sitting position. "Even then you had to stop three times to rest. Take the chair back, Dick."
"Fine, fine," Dick rolled his eyes and Jason chuckled at the put out look on the younger boy's face. "See you tomorrow, Andrew?"
"I'll pick you up from your room at one thirty. Jason, it was nice to meet you."
"You too," Jason said as the man left. When he was gone, Jason moved over to the chair and wheeled it over to where Dick still sat on the mat. The older boy bowed at the waist and gestured to the wheelchair with a grand flourish. "Your chariot awaits!"
Dick looked at the chair and groaned before flopping onto his back with his arms splayed out to the side. "If I do, promise me you'll get me the hell out of here!"
Jason crouched down beside his 'cousin'. "How long you in for?"
With a sigh, Dick turned his head to look at him. "At least another two months. They're still watching my liver for any problems. Apparently," He held up his still bandaged wrists, "the infection I got from these came with a not so healthy dose of septicaemia. While they've cleared that little problem up, it's still kicked the crap out of my immune system."
Shaking his head, Jason frowned. "You don't do anything by half, do you kid?"
Dick snorted and held his arm out to the other boy. "Help me up will you? I stink and need a shower."
"Dude," Jason snickered and grabbed onto the arm, pulling Dick up slowly into a sitting position. Before the smaller boy could protest, Jason had picked him up bridal style and was lowering him into the chair.
After trying to cover up his undignified squawk that came with the sudden lift, Dick directed Jason out of the PT Room and toward the elevator to his floor. "So why are you here?" He tried against as he was wheeled through the hall at a casual pace.
"I already told you," Jason smirked.
"Uh huh," the hacker tilted his head back and raised an eyebrow at the teen pushing him.
Jason laughed outright. "Man! You really are Bruce's kid! You've got his expressions and everything!"
Dick smirked and relaxed into the seat. They walked in a comfortable quiet until they stepped into an empty elevator and dick pressed the button for the twelfth floor. When the car started moving up, he glanced over at his companion. "So?"
"Kick a dead horse why don't you?" Jason leaned against the wall of the car and lifted a folded piece of paper from the inside of his biker jacket. He tossed it onto the boy's lap with a smug smirk tugging at his lips.
Opening it carefully, Dick's smile all but exploded onto his face. "Is this for real!?"
"You should know," Jason scoffed. "You helped set it up!"
"You signed!" Without warning, Dick threw himself out of the chair and into the older boy's chest.
"Whoa!" he exclaimed, wrapping his arms quickly around the scrawny boy lest he collapse onto the floor.
"Does Bruce know?" Dick demanded eagerly, his smile still blinding.
"Duh," Jason guided the giddy boy back into his chair. "I called him this morning to see if the offer was still good."
"Of course it was!"
"Yeah, I got that. Alfred was on his way to clear out my apartment when I headed over here, though Bruce says he'll extend the lease on the place indefinitely. Told me it made a good safe house if ever we needed it. He told me we'd go over the plans for it later tonight after I get settled in the manor and he shows me around. "
"Dang it," Dick groused suddenly. "Bruce is going to show you the Cave and I'm stuck in this place! How is that even remotely asterous?"
"Dude, that's not even a word!"
"You will learn," he responded imperially, waving his hand dismissively. "I am all about the words!"
Jason snorted. "You are such a dork!"
"Most likely," Dick grinned up at him. "I'm glad you signed, Jason. You'll see; Bruce is a great Dad."
Suddenly feeling self conscious, Jason crouched down next to the wheelchair. Dick's shining blue eyes held a world of promises that he desperately wanted to believe. "It might be nice," he admitted quietly, "to have a family for a while."
"Not just a while, Brother."
A small smirk curled his lips. "Cousin."