Hello! This chapter is a bit longer since a lot of stuff happens.
First part is Bruce's POV, the second is Jason's POV.
I hope you like it!
The Bat Family
As soon as he went on patrol, Batman drove to Crime Alley. In his head, he decided that his annual patrol on the anniversary of his parents' death had become too predictable, thus a surprise visit would prove a lot more advantageous.
He slowed down as he drove by Ma Gunn's School and stared at the old building, wondering how Jason was doing. He was going to check up on him but maybe he should give the boy a bit of space. Kids like Jason didn't like to be continuously monitored and Bruce didn't want to ruin his new chance at a better life by scaring him away.
Still, he would check up on him soon.
After parking the Batmobile (with improved security), Batman took five minutes to find two drug dealers threatening their regular costumer to pay what he owned them. One kick and several punches later and the two were on the floor while the costumer ran for his life.
"You're not supposed to be here" one of the dealers whined. "Not today."
"Don't count on it" Batman answered, tying to them to an electricity pole and walking away.
"Wait! Don't leave us here!"
"It won't be for long, the police will be here soon" Batman vanished into the nearest roof using his grapnel gun.
All in all, it was a very productive night. He had stopped four robberies, two attempted murders and a rape. Bruce wanted to believe that Gotham was better now, but the truth was that he had spent so much time trying to save the world that he had neglected his city. Not that he regretted joining the Justice League, saving the world from exploding was technically saving Gotham as well, but the city didn't have his undivided attention anymore and that needed to be fixed soon.
Both he and Dick were spending way too much time outside and the crime lords of Gotham had taken advantage of their absence, but not anymore. Batman wasn't going to make the same mistake again.
"I can't believe this!" a man shouted, making Batman lean from the roof. A man around his fifties was standing before an old but nice car which, Batman assumed, belonged to him. However, the car had no tires. "Fuck this place! I was only gone for an hour!"
Frowning, Batman stared at the abandoned theater and jumped to the next roof in the direction of a familiar rundown building. He didn't want to believe it, but all his instincts were pointing in that direction. Bruce hoped that he was wrong for a change.
Like the night before, he entered the building silently and glared at the pile of tires leaning against the wall and at the raven-haired boy who was listening to an old Mp3 before grabbing his headphones and ripping them off his hears with an angry movement.
"Hey!" Jason yelled as he looked up and his eyes widened, first in shock but then with annoyance. "What are you doing here?"
"You didn't keep your end of the bargain" Batman said drily, barely hiding his anger under the cowl.
"Fuck off!" boy hissed.
"Watch your mouth!" Batman exclaimed, letting some of his own anger and disappointment slip through his voice. "Why aren't you at Ma Gunn's school? Not even 24 hours and you're already stealing. Why?"
The boy glared at the Dark Knight but refused to answer.
"Like you don't know!" Jason yelled back. "If you wanted to get me killed, you could have done it last night!"
Batman blinked. "What are you talking about?"
"Tch! Don't play dumb! Is that the place where you send the bad kids you catch? All that talk about caring was just a scam to make me trust you so could send me to that kindergarten of crime! You're not a hero! You're a big, fat liar!"
Bruce stared at the boy's furious face, trying to stay neutral. Jason's cheeks were blushed; his eyes wide and bright and his voice didn't waver. He honestly believed what he was saying.
"I don't know what you're talking about. All I did was give you a chance to get an education!" Batman answered. "I want you to have a future away from these streets, Jason."
"Stop lying! You think everybody here is a crook. You and your super friends only care about the good, nice people and the rest of us are just trash to you. You don't know what's like! I don't wanna be a criminal and I never hurt anyone. I'm just doing what I need to survive!"
Bruce stared back at Jason, noticing his teary eyes, the bloody lip and the bruise on his forehead. He was angry and upset with him, the other heroes and probably the world who had failed him when he needed. Jason believed Batman had betrayed him after gaining his trust.
"You're not trash. I never thought that about you" he said softly. "What happened at the school? Did the other boys beat you?"
Jason crossed his arms around his chest, still shaking. "Of course they did. The old hag told them too."
"Ma Gunn told them to beat you? Why would she…?"
"To break me! What else? She's nuts!" the boy looked deep into Batman's face. After a while, his shoulders slumped and he gaped slightly at the Dark Knight. "You mean… you mean you didn't know?"
Jason kept staring, unsure of what do say. "You're Batman. You know every criminal in Gotham. You had to know…"
Batman picked up two of the tires and handed the rest to Jason, who still looked torn between confusion and mistrust. "Tell me what happened at the school while you put that man's tires back in their place."
Because he didn't have a choice, Jason told him everything.
"She hides weapons behind the chalkboard and then teaches us how they work and when we should use the right gun… knifes too. A couple of kids already know how to use them and how to hack into a security camera; cut the alarms and stuff like that… They've been stealing, that's why she's so rich. She's going to steal the diamonds from the museum tonight, that's why there are no lights on the school… They're all going there."
Batman heard the boy as he placed the last tire on the car. By the time he was done, the Dark Knight frowned.
"Do you expect me to believe…?"
"I don't care what you believe!" Jason cried out angrily. "I'm telling the truth. Just because I'm a Crime Alley kid, doesn't mean I'm a liar."
Batman turned around and saw the car's owner walking towards them with a mix of surprise and happiness in his face as he saw the tires back.
"Ah… Thank you, Batman" the man said awkwardly. "Thank you for getting my tires back."
"Yes, but I would like you to keep an eye on this boy here for a while" Batman said.
The man looked behind Batman with a confused expression in his face. "Boy? What boy?"
When Bruce turned around he saw that Jason was gone.
"Damn. So that's what it feels like…"
Later, Bruce would question why he drove to Gotham's Museum as soon as Jason was gone. It wasn't because he actually thought an old, sweet woman like Ma Gunn would shelter runaways and orphans only to turn them into her goons, but he also didn't believe Jason was lying. The problem was that emotion was getting in the way of logic and there was only one way to sort this out.
It also made him realize how emotionally attached he had become to Jason Todd without meaning too. He'd have to take care of that too when he found him again and, hopefully, regained his trust, even if he didn't understand why it had become so important to him.
But now, Batman was mostly worried about getting into the Museum through the skylight without sounding the alarm. His concern doubled when he realized it at been shut down and saw several guards fallen on the ground.
A quick inspection told him they were alive, just unconscious due to someone placing a cloth with chloroform on their faces.
"You were right, Jason" Batman thought. "When this is over, I'll make sure you know that."
The main exhibits still had their alarms intact, including the diamonds. If Ma Gunn was a smart as she appeared to be, she would definitely go for the smaller and yet most expensive one: the Deathly Smile necklace.
Hiding in the shadows of the diamond exhibit, Batman saw a kid knocking out another night guard with chloroform and heading towards one of the back doors. Deducing that he didn't have much time, Batman changed the security protocols of the necklace's glass case and hid on top of one of the gargoyles.
Soon, Ma Gunn walked triumphantly through the exhibit with the boys in tow. Batman closed his fists with anger as he saw the greed in her features and the glee in her eyes. How could he not have seen it before? How could have been so wrong about her?
How could he have left a child who had trusted him with someone before investigating her meticulously? He had been stupid. Stupid, naïve and careless.
"Hey, Ma? Check out all the rocks!" one of the kids exclaimed, his fingers itching to take as many diamonds as he could. "Why don't we just take them all?"
"Yeah! Why not, Ma? We're gonna get rich!"
"Quality over quantity, luvs" Ma answered. "The one we need is this one: the Deathly Smile. Many necks were sliced over it. It's priceless, which means we can get all the money we can dream off once we sell it on the black market."
"Can we get bigger guns with that money, Ma?"
Ma Gunn grinned. "Of course, my dear. We're all going to get new toys. Now… let me show you how to deactivate the alarm. Soon, you will be able to do this on your own."
The boys surrounded the old woman, barely holding their excitement while she showed them how to steal. However, as soon as Ma Gunn switched off the alarm of the glass case, the main alarm began to ring all across the Museum.
The boys looked around nervously and Ma Gunn glared at the boy who had stayed in the Museum.
"You worthless buffoon!" she hissed with pure hatred in her voice. "You didn't disable the main alarm?"
"I… I did, Ma. I swear! I don't know what went wrong…"
"I do" Batman said, gliding to the ground and knocking four teens unconscious.
"The Bat! It's the Bat" the boys yelled, pulling their knives and handguns from their pockets.
"Batman… You did this" Ma Gunn said, glaring at the vigilante.
"I changed the alarm of that case. The police are on their on their way. It's over Ma Gunn."
"It's not over until I say so. Kill him, luvs!"
It was hard to knock all those teenagers unconscious without hurting them seriously. The boys were filled with pure rage and honest devotion to Ma Gunn, which she had no trouble using to her own ends. What angered Batman the most, was the indifference she showed every time one of her 'luvs' was knocked out. There was no care, no love. They were simply a means to an end.
"These kids trust you, Ma Gunn" Batman said, surrounded by passed out teens. "They follow you, they're loyal… and you use them as pawns on your schemes."
"There are a lot of children on the streets. I can get new pupils any time" she answered. "If you're here, that means that little rat told you all about us. I thought he had potential, but he turned out to be a huge waste of time. He doesn't have what it takes."
Batman walked slowly towards the old woman. "No, he's just better than you. I'll make sure you're not going to manipulate anymore children from now on."
"Oh! What are you going to do, Dark Knight? Surely, you wouldn't beat up an old, defenseless lady?"
"I wasn't going to" Batman said, hitting her swiftly on the neck and rendering her unconscious. "But you're no lady."
Behind Batman, one of the boys lifted up his head at the same time he saw Ma Gunn fall to the ground. Shaking with rage, the boy grabbed a gun and pointed it to the Dark Knight's back.
"Batman!" a boy's voice yelled, followed by the sound of a gunshot.
Bruce ducked just in time as the bullet hit the wall in front of him and turned around. Jason was wrestling one of the boys, using all his strength to keep him still.
"You little fucker!" the older boy cried out, elbowing Jason on the chest and pointing the gun to his head. "I'm gonna blow your fucking brains out! You little shit!"
Surprisingly agile, Jason kicked the teen's hand, forcing him to drop the gun, and punched him on the face. Already dizzy from Batman's punches, the teen finally lost consciousness.
"If you're gonna shoot, just shoot. Don't stand there and call me names" Jason said, standing over the teen.
Batman walked over to the boy, still surprised to see him there and even more amazed that he had managed to singlehandedly disarm and defeat someone a lot taller and stronger than he was to save Batman's life (though the suit was bullet proof).
"Why are you here, Jason?"
"I didn't think you believed me, so I came here to get them" the boy answered, rubbing his hands on his dirty sweatshirt.
Batman frowned. "By yourself? Why didn't you call the police?"
"I'm no stoolie, but I wasn't let them do this" Jason answered. "Someone needs to show what the old hag is really like."
Batman sighed as he bounded the hands and feet of the teens and Ma Gunn, aware that Jason was staring at him. The boy was brave and gifted, but he was also brash and impulsive and those traits could get him killed.
"Do you realize that if I wasn't here, you could have died?" Batman grumbled, glaring at the boy.
Jason's grin faded and he crossed his arms over his chest. "Someone had to stop her. I had to try… Besides, I kinda saved you."
Without answering, Batman walked towards the exit and motioned Jason to follow him. Outside, he looked at the boy once more.
"How did you get in?" he asked.
"Same way you did… the skylight. I saw your bat buggy parked outside."
Batman had to control his hands from rubbing his temples. This kid was one of a kind, in a good and a bad way.
"I see my wheels are intact" the Dark Knight said when they reached the batmobile.
"Yeah…" Jason looked at the street and his eyes widened with fear as he heard the police sirens. "Listen, huh… Can I split before the cops show? I really don't want to go to juvie again."
Instead of answering, Batman kept staring at the boy's face. He knew the system wasn't going to work for him. Jason was going back to the streets and keep doing what he needed to survive the harsh life in Gotham's underworld. If he was lucky enough not to get shot or stabbed in his youth, he would grow up to do wrong. Jason would be corrupted by the streets and the need to survive at any cost and this little boy with a sense of justice would vanish forever.
His power would eventually catch a crime lord's eye, who would almost certainly try to recruit him. Batman imagined arriving at a crime scene and seeing Jason there, needing to fight him and sending him to prison. It wasn't necessarily his future, but it was the most likely one.
Batman didn't want this future to happen. He didn't want to end up fighting Jason.
"I'm just gonna go, ok? Later" Jason turned around when Batman suddenly grabbed his arm. "Huh? What are you doing?" Jason's exasperation changed into confusion as soon as he saw Batman's face. "Batman?"
Bruce knew he couldn't save everyone. He couldn't stop all the children from growing into criminals. He couldn't help them all, but… he could try and save this one. He realized he couldn't leave Jason, not now. Despite all his efforts, he had become too emotionally attached to the boy.
"You're coming with me" Batman ordered, opening the doors of the car.
Jason's blue-green eyes widened with shock. "What?"
"Get in the car."
The boy looked at Batman, the batmobile and at the arriving police cars. "You mean it?"
"Get in" Batman ordered, sitting on the driver's seat.
Carefully, Jason walked towards the batmobile and sat next to the Dark Knight. He cringed when the doors closed and the car disappeared from the alley at an amazing speed.
In the minutes that followed, the boy remained silent, staring awkwardly at the window and occasionally glancing at Batman. He was confused and worried about being trapped in a car with the same man he used to despise. He had no idea what he was going to do to him.
"Bats? Batman?" Jason asked. "Where are taking me?"
"Somewhere safe" Batman replied without taking his eyes off the street.
"Like an orphanage? I told you no one is gonna take me."
"I'm taking you to my house."
Jason gaped and blinked several times, certain that he had heard him wrong. "What?"
"You're going to stay with me now" Batman said decisively.
The kid frowned slightly and glared at the man. "Is this a joke?"
Batman finally looked at Jason and the boy's glare disappeared. "Do I look like I'm joking?"
"But… why? Why would you take me?"
"Because I care."
And with that, Jason remained in a stunned silence for the rest of the short trip.
Soon, the kid saw the city disappear as the batmobile entered a thick forest. Jason wondered where Batman could live. A secret lair underground? Or maybe a cave like a real bat.
"Hang on" Batman said.
Before Jason asked what he meant, the car bumped into some rocks and headed straight into a waterfall.
"Stay calm, Jason."
Though he was about to scream, Jason stayed quiet as the car jumped right into the waterfall. To the boy's surprise, they didn't crash and Batman drove the car through a tunnel behind the waterfall until they finally stopped.
Batman opened the batmobile's doors and they got out.
"Whoa! You do live in a cave" Jason gasped, looking around him awe. Not only it was the biggest cave he had ever seen, but it was also filled with cars, a strange plane, computers and a lot of technologic stuff that he had never seen before.
"The Batcave is my secret headquarters, I don't actually live here" Batman said, walking towards the main computer.
Because he still felt worried and didn't know what else to do, Jason followed him, always keeping a safe distance and already looking for places where he could hide or run in case the Bat tried to turn on him. However, with each passing second that scenario seemed more unlikely. Batman had brought him with him and said he was going to stay, though Jason knew that couldn't be right. People didn't just do that, they didn't keep thieves, especially not heroes like Batman.
"When you said I was staying… do you mean for like a night?" the boy asked.
Batman opened one of the lockers and Jason saw many batsuits like the one he was wearing.
"No. I want you to stay far longer than that" Batman answered.
"A week? A month?" Jason kept asking. "Longer?"
"Until you're old enough to buy your own house" Batman answered, kneeling in front of the boy so they were face to face. "I want you to live here."
"You mean… stay here until I'm an adult? As in really live here? With you?"
"But… but I stole from you! I stole your tires!" Jason cried out, like he was trying to make Batman understand how insane it was. "Aren't you afraid I'll just run off with your stuff? Or tell people where you live?"
"No, I'm not worried."
"Because you're no stoolie."
Jason opened his mouth to object but closed it slowly and looked down, embarrassed. "People don't like me. I'm too loud, too rude… I'm not a nice, kid. I'm just going to screw up and you're gonna be sorry for taking me in."
Jason looked up when he felt a hand on his shoulder. For a moment, he almost slapped it away, but found out he kinda didn't want to.
"Maybe… But I'm willing to take a chance on you, Jason."
For the first time in years, Jason felt something warm on his chest that wasn't painful or made him angry. His throat tightened and his eyes stung. It took him a while to realize that he was about to cry, which was not going to happen, so he sniffed a few times and pretended he had something in his eyes. We wasn't going to admit that he felt disappointed when Batman stood up and took his hand from his shoulder either, but he wasn't ready at all for what Batman was going to do next.
To Jason's dismay, Batman pulled off his cowl. Suddenly, Batman had a human face with black hair and blue eyes, he looked like a person. More amazingly, Jason knew who this man was.
"You're… you're that rich guy!" the boy gasped, completely taken aback. "You're that Wayne guy!"
"Bruce Wayne, actually. But we'll have time to talk about it later. Now, you need to eat and get some rest."
Jason couldn't stop staring at Batman… or Mr. Wayne now. It was overwhelming to see a hero change from a symbol into an real person right in front of him. Right until now, Jason had always thought of Batman as Batman, not a person because a normal person couldn't do the things he did.
The sound of an elevator broke Jason from his stupor and he subconsciously moved closer to Mr. Wayne when an old man walked into the cave.
"I wasn't expecting you to be home so soon, Master Bruce. Is there something…" the old man's eyes widened in surprise when he saw Jason. "Do we have a visitor?"
Jason frowned with suspicion at the old man with an accent and almost, just almost, grabbed Mr. Wayne's cape like a little, scared kid.
"Alfred, this is Jason Todd. Jason, this is Alfred Pennyworth, my butler. I trust him with my life" Mr. Wayne said, noticing the boy's mistrust.
The butler looked at Jason without revealing any emotion on his face. "It's a pleasure to meet you, Master Jason."
Jason blinked in confusion. No one had ever called him 'Master' before; then again, he had never met a butler, so he didn't know if that was the way they all behaved or if the old man was making fun of him. But if Batman… Mr. Wayne trusted him, then he probably was alright.
"Huh… Hi, Mr. Pennyworth" the boy whispered.
"Jason isn't a visitor, Alfred" Mr. Wayne said. "He's going to live with us from now on."
The butler's expression revealed nothing, so Jason had no idea if he was against it.
"I see… I'll make the necessary arrangements" Alfred answered with the same poker face.
"Can you get him something to eat?"
"Of course, sir."
Mr. Wayne turned to Jason. "Go with Alfred. You can trust him. I'll be there as soon as I'm dressed. Nothing related to Batman gets out of this cave, that's a rule."
Jason nodded and turned to the butler. That expression was starting to get on his nerves.
"This way, Master Jason."
Because he was really hungry, Jason followed the butler to the elevator, always keeping a safe distance from the unknown man. He was sure the old guy hated having him there. He was probably judging his baggy and filthy clothes and worried that Jason was gonna leave everything dirty or steal the family's jewels or something.
The elevator door opened and the boy followed the butler down the biggest hall ever to the kitchen.
"Please sit down, Master Jason" Alfred said and Jason carefully pulled a chair and sat by the table. "Is there something in particular that you wish to eat?"
"I'm not picky. I eat everything, Mr. Pennyworth" the boy answered, still frowning at the man.
"Very well, sir" the butler said. "By the way, you can call me Alfred. Everyone does."
This surprised Jason. He had never met an adult who liked to be called by his first name by a kid.
"Ah… Okay. Then you can just call me Jason."
"That would not be proper" Alfred said.
"As a butler, it wouldn't be correct."
"Like… a butler's code or something?"
Alfred seemed to ponder on those words for a while. "Yes, that's exactly it. Do you want something for those injuries, Master Jason?"
"My…? Oh! No, they don't hurt" Jason touched his bruised cheek and winced. "They don't hurt that much. I got worse and I could take it."
Sympathy and worry appeared on Alfred's eyes, but was gone before Jason noticed it.
"After he eats, we'll take care of those cuts" Mr. Wayne said, entering the room and sitting in front of Jason. "He's going to need new clothes as well."
"As you wish, Master Bruce" Alfred said.
"I'm fine and I don't need new clothes" Jason exclaimed. "They're just a bit dirty."
"We're not going to take them from you, Jason" Mr. Wayne assured him. "Alfred is going to wash them. You can have them then."
"It's just… I don't need new stuff, okay? You don't have to buy me stuff and I'm not gonna whine."
Mr. Wayne glanced at Alfred before staring back at Jason. "Like I said, you're going to live with us now, so it isn't wrong for us to give you clothes. Also, if you want or need something, you can always ask. I'm not saying I'm going to give you everything you want, but there's nothing wrong about asking."
Jason stared at Mr. Wayne and shrugged. "Alright…"
"Good. Now… let's talk about rules."
Jason frowned. "Rules?"
"Yes, rules. First of all, no more smoking. It's not debatable" Mr. Wayne announced when he saw Jason ready to object. "You're not going to smoke again. It's bad for your health and I won't allow it. You break this rule, you're grounded. Understood?"
Jason glared at the older man. He hated rules and orders. Obedience had never been his strong point, quite the opposite.
"Jason?" Mr. Wayne said dangerously, but the boy pouted and refused to look at him.
"Lots of people smoke. It's no big deal!"
"Jason Peter Todd!"
Jason almost jumped from the chair. He heard that when adults use your full name, it was never a good thing, but no one had actually done it to him. He had to admit it was scary.
"Yes… sir" the boy answered, finding it strange that he felt more intimated by this man than when he was wearing the Batman suit.
"Also, you have to do what Alfred and I tell you to do. If Alfred tells you to eat, you'll eat. No escapes at night. Whenever you want to leave the house, you tell someone where you're going and when you're coming back."
Jason gaped. "Wait! You want to keep tabs on me?"
"I want to know where you are, because none of us wants to be worried if you went missing. In case you disappear, we'll be looking for you assuming something happened. Are we clear?"
"Fine!" Jason muttered. "But it still feels like you're keeping tabs on me."
"It's not" Mr. Wayne answered flatly.
"Here's your meal, Master Jason" Alfred said, placing several dishes in front of the stunned boy.
"This… is this all for me?" Jason asked, staring at the hot chocolate, the sandwiches, pancakes, waffles, cookies and bread with his mouth watering.
"You don't need to eat it all, Master Jason. I can save the rest on the fridge in you like."
"Wow! Thanks… Alfred" the boy said, grabbing a sandwich and thinking he had never eaten something this good in his entire life. If he was going to eat like this, maybe the stupid rules were bearable.
"I made chicken soup for you, Master Bruce" Alfred went on, impassively placing a place of steaming soup in front of Mr. Wayne.
"I'm not hungry, Alfred" the other man said.
"Since you barely touched your dinner, I'm forced to disagree. Besides, you did say that Master Jason was to eat when I tell him to eat. You should set a good example."
Mr. Wayne stared at Alfred for a few seconds before his expression turned into an actual pout. Jason had to bite his lip not to laugh. Batman was pouting at his butler 'cause he didn't want to eat his soup! Maybe Alfred was really powerful.
"Fine, I'll eat it" Mr. Wayne said.
"Very well, sir. I took the liberty of making tea as well, I'm sure you'll drink it."
Mr. Wayne's frown got even bigger, which made Jason chuckle.
"I'm not done talking about the rules" he man said, ending Jason's chuckles. Now they were both brooding.
As Jason kept eating, he thought how much his whole life had changed in a moment and wondered if he really could stay with Batman, no, Mr. Wayne and Alfred when they were so different from him. He was street kid. He didn't fit in a rich guy's house. But, what if he could? What if things worked out? Mr. Wayne was scary as hell and liked to order around, but he wasn't all that bad compared to a lot people Jason had met. Alfred was weird with his accent and butler manners… but it was fun seeing him tease Mr. Wayne.
Maybe Jason's luck had finally changed for the better.
"Hey! I can smell pancakes!" a boy's voice was heard outside the kitchen. "Are we having a night snack and no one… huh?"
Jason stared at the kid who had entered the kitchen and stopped dead on his tracks as soon as he saw him. The boy was older than he was by a few years, he had black hair and blue eyes like Mr. Wayne and his nose was swollen and black.
Jason remembered the fight on the grocery store, the punch… Apparently, the other boy was remembering it too.
"You! What are you… why is he…?"
Jason grinned. "Let me guess… Robin?"
Jason becomes part of the bat family and reunites with Dick.
Thanks for reading!