Jason hated doing patrols in the rain. Gotham was grimy, messy, slimily and stick-to-your-legs dirty when it was dry, things just got worse when the nights were wet as well. As an added bounce, all the truly messed up individuals the city had to offer seemed to like the rain. They raced out into the streets like rats running back onto a sinking ship. That was kind of Gotham in a nutshell; the sinking ship that pulled others down with its undertow.
There was a fundamental difference between how Dick and Jason saw the city. Jason knew Gotham was out to get him, Dick did not. Hell, even Bruce had thought the city was on his side, deep down. After everything that the city threw at them, Jason would have thought Dick had learned his lesson, realized the city was a cesspool and needed to be approached like a hostile enemy at all times. He thought Dick knew to watch his own god damned back.
Maybe, if Bruce had let Jason or Dick work with him more on patrols he wouldn't be dead now.
And maybe Jason was bitter and who the hell cared if that was true?
With Bruce dead someone had to take up the mantle of Batman, and really, there was no way Bruce's little two-foot tall demon child was going to be dawning that particular title any time soon, even if Damian had managed to weasel his way into a Robin suit. Dick offered the cowl to Jason, way back in the beginning, when everything was still raw and bleeding, but they both knew who the better choice was. Personally, Jason thought Dick was afraid of stepping into those shoes, like he had every right to.
'Todd, if you planed on spending the evening in reminiscence you should have stayed home," Damian said, only just loud enough to be heard over the pounding of rain drops on the stone roof.
Jason glanced back at Robin, version 3.0, and rolled his eyes behind his red mask. Talia and Ra's had given the kid a dangerously inflated ego. Being ruthless didn't mean you were going to survive Gotham, but Damian didn't seem to realize that. Jason still remembered the first time the kid went out on patrol with Bruce, days before Bruce died. Dick was still in Central City at the time, helping the Flash (Wally was way less annoying in this world then he had been on the Other Earth), so Bruce contacted Jason. He hadn't come right out and said it, but it was clear from his hedging that Bruce wanted someone extra there to keep an eye on the kid. Always helped to have two sets of eyes watching out when throwing a ten year old at crime.
The fact that Jason disapproved of the whole venture was made very clear to Bruce.
Damian made it just as clear that he would patrol Gotham decked out as Robin whether he was given permission to or not.
They stopped a robbery that had taken a drastic turn towards sexual violence. Two guys in sky masks boasting about taking turns with the wife and kids of the jeweler that lived above the shop they were robbing. It always surprised Jason that people ran towards the sounds of trouble in this city. Damian hamstringed one of the guys and nearly skewered the one trying to force himself on the jeweler's teenage son.
Bruce stopped him from doing anything fatal.
Jason would have let the kid kill both perpetrators and not lose any sleep over it.
Which was why he found it a little strange that Dick was having him go out on patrol with the Baby Bird. It felt like emotional black mail. Dick had to make an appearance at the Wayne Enterprise Gala, and Damian was going to hit the streets with or without someone there to loom in the Batsuit.
"Just keep an eye on him. Keep him from hurting himself….or anyone else. Please, as soon as I can, I'll slip away and find you both, but I don't want him out there alone," Dick'd sounded stressed, even over the phone. Between inheriting Bruce's burdens with the Batsuit, Wayne Enterprises and a small, nasty kid he was running himself raged. He sounded like shit, knew it, and knew Jason wasn't going to say no.
It was really hard to say no when part of Jason still saw that little boy from the Other Earth every time he looked at Dick. Also, Jason kind of liked his version of Richard Grayson was well.
So here he was, in the rain, watching Damian, waiting for something to happen, and wishing he wasn't on babysitter duty tonight.
"Cool it, 3.0, I'm as focused as you are," he said, waving Damian's comment away with a soggy, gloved hand.
Damian snorted and leaned cluster to the edge of the building. They had already stopped three muggings and one armed robbery tonight. Nights like tonight were about moving fast and staying alert, not about long stakeouts. Brake time at the moment was more to let Damian calm down after the last mugging then anything else. Kid got pissed when other kids felt Gotham's bite. Jason commiserated, but Damian had to get that in check. He couldn't fly off the handle every time anyone pointed a knife at a teenager. It was a very easy, very visible weakness. Someone would exploit it and someone would kill him.
"I doubt that. You're hardly a paradigm of focus or honesty," Damian quipped, still scanning the streets below them.
Jason rolled his eyes and reminded himself that smacking the kid would only encourage him. "And you're reckless and have bad taste in costumes, but I wasn't going to make this personal."
Damian's head snapped around so that Jason could watch the white of the mask covering his eyes narrow into slits. The ridiculous cape and hood combo the kid sported were soggy with rain, despite the water resistant coating. More water was pulling on the top of the hood, so that it was beginning to droop over the kid's brow. One strong tug and the thing would fall and cover Damian's face completely.
Impractical. Dangerous. Jason would have to bring that up with Dick later.
"And that immaturity isn't something you think is questionable? I'm shocked Grayson even lets you walk these streets with that guise if you're so flippant about your work," Damian said, voice louder now against the rain.
Jason rolled his eyes again, realized Damian couldn't see the motion and settled for lifting his shoulders up and dropping them in as juvenile a gesture as he could manage. "It's not flippancy. I know restraint."
"You know how to feel shame over your past convictions. I know what you were like, Todd. Five years ago you would have killed all of the criminals we encountered tonight. Now, you seem ready to walk them home and tuck them into bed. I expect as muck from Grayson, but you at least should know better," Damian hissed. There was so much righteous fury, so much anger in such a small package, and Jason just felt tired. That was what he'd been like, not too long ago. Angry, violent, and convinced he knew best.
It's what came from interacting with Ra's Al Ghul and his daughter. It's was came from raising a child to think that killing was the only way to get his father's love. Kind of hurt to watch; it hit a little too close to home.
"Listen, this isn't about—"
Something exploded on street level with the force of a sonic boom. The sound reached them first, scratching at Jason's eardrums so that a burning ring followed in its wake. Something wet was dribbling along the inside of his ears that definitely wasn't rain. Possible rupture. He moved on instinct. Jason snatched one of Damian's arms, ignoring the way the kid was pawing at his ears under the green hood. He pulled Damian in close and spun so Jason's back was facing the edge of the building before forcing them both down flat against the stones.
The shockwave followed the sound seconds later. It shattered the glass in the windows all around them, so many that Jason could hear it over the rain. Water pelted like rocks into the leather of his jacket, and Jason curled more securely around Damian, shielding him from as much of the blast as possible. Small, loose chunks of stone broke free and one bounced off the back of the red mask hard enough that it hurt even through the metal. The building shook.
And then everything settled under the steady beat of rain once more.
Well, fuck, Jason thought, uncurling just enough to glance over his shoulder. The raised stone ledge of the roof had crumbling groves knocked out of it. A hard jab caught Jason under the ribs. He cursed. Damian drove his elbow into the same sore spot once more and rolled away as soon as Jason eased his grip. Ungrateful punk.
"What was that?" Damian didn't wait for a response. He darted around Jason, who was climbing to his feet, and peered over the ledge. Jason was pleased to see Damian staid far enough away from the edge that, should the stones become loose, he would have time to get clear.
"I have no idea." Other than a bomb, Jason was at a loss. And Dick would be pissed if either Damian or Jason got themselves hurt poking around something quite obviously dangerous without him there for backup.
Sucks to be Dick then, because Jason's curiosity was already eating at him.
Damian reached down to his belt, pulled free his grappling line and shot it off at the most stable looking outcrop on the building across from their own. Jason followed him on down. The windows they fell past were crushed and blow inwards, the rooms beyond dark and still. For once, no one seemed all that interested in exploring the source of the disturbance.
Jason gave it about five minutes before curiosity won over fear and either the GPD or residence of the area found their way to the street.
There was someone lying on the ground. Smack dab in the center of the road. There was a crater in the perfect shape of a circle around him. Cracks slithered out from the circle like discarded bolts of lightning. The figure in the center of the circle laid face down, water slowly but steady accumulating around him, and did not move. Even in the gloom, the orange and red where clear.
Jason darted past Damian, ignoring the protest when he pushed the boy behind him. The uniform was recognizable. He'd seen it before. Five years wasn't enough time to forget how much of an eye sore Kid Flash was. Although, not so much of a kid anymore. The "kid" had sprouted like a fucking weed. Jason ran his fingers along neck and spine, just to be safe, and then turned Wall West over onto his back. His lips were bloodless and his skin ashen, but there was a pulse.
"Call home. Tell Alfred we've got someone injured and in need of medical attention," said Jason, clipped and stern.
Damian's face scrunched up behind the mask. "What? Why? I don't know him, and just because he's wearing a suit that looks like the Flash's doesn't mean he's trustworthy. We can't bring him back to the cave."
"Make the call. Now."
For one long moment Jason was sure the order would be ignored. He didn't have time to deal with Damian's attitude right now. The simple truth was, there was no Kid Flash in this world. Not now. Wally West was the Flash, same as Dick was Batman. This Wally West looked about the age Jason was when he'd taken his little inter-dimensional trip to the Other Earth. In five years, no one from that world had come to this one. He'd tried to go back once, just to say hello, just to see how the younger version of Dick was faring in his world, but it just wasn't possible. Whatever scientific magic needed to make that trip hadn't found its way to Bruce in this world, and there was no way in hell this version of Super Boy Scout was going to play Energizer Bunny to facilitate the trip.
What that all boiled down to was; bad. Very bad. If Wally was here now, it wasn't for anything good. If anyone on the Other Earth could have made the trip again safely, they would have. So what the hell was Wally doing here now?
Wally hurt. Like hell. Like, really, really, really bad shin splints and pulled ligaments, and ending up on the losing end of a sparring match with Conner all at once. His bones felt like jelly. There was the strong possibility that his brain was leaking out his ears, because something wet was trailing down his neck and brain juice seemed like a logical conclusion.
Artemis was going to be so mad at him. Not for long, because he was dead, but in the moment she'd want to kick his ass. Wally figured he deserved it. After how much convincing he'd needed to agree to the whole "my girlfriend is dead" scam, all the nights he's laid awake terrified something was going to happened to her, all the grief he'd given Dick towards the end about the danger, and Wally went and got himself killed? Not cool. Not cool at all.
Except, being dead normally meant there wasn't someone wiping away the brain juice from your neck…So, that was unexpected.
"Your friend is waking up," said someone young and high pitched. A kid. Like, a younger-then-Bart kind of kid.
"Indeed, Master Jason, Master Richard, if you please?"
Wally's eyes shot open so fast they actually hurt. Only, he was having a really hard time figuring out who or what he was seeing, because everything was a massive swirling mix of color at the moment. But he knew that voice, would know it until his dying day, because one did not break an expensive flower pot while visiting Dick Grayson and forget the guilt inducing "It's quite all right" Alfred responded with. Alfred did disappointment better than either Mom or Dad ever managed.
"How are you feeling?" said another voice. Wally recognized that one too, but in a distant, song-he'd-heard-years-ago kind of way. There was a guy with dark hair and blue-ish eyes coming into focused in front of Wally, Dick peering over his shoulder and for a long time Wally just blinked and breathed. Blinked and breathed. He could do that, nice and slow, he could do that.
"Jason?" he asked at last.
Jason grinned, the corners of his lips stretching in the same lopsided, fond way that Wally remembered a younger boy smiling once. That boy was dead. Had been for a long time.
Jason laughed. They were in the Batecave. Dick was older too. Wally had no idea who the kid scowling from over by the computer monitors was, because it wasn't Tim. There was no sign of Bruce, but he'd turn up eventually. Alfred glided back into view with a glass of water. He tilted Wally's head up, pressed the glass closer with smooth motions, and Wally gulped half of it down in one go.
"What's going on?" he asked, once he'd swallowed the last of the water. Alfred allowed him to gently settle back on the pillow.
Dick shook his head. He was in a suit and tie, a nice suit and tie, but Jason and the scowling kid were both in their uniforms. Odd.
"We're not sure. You appeared in the middle of downtown Gotham," Dick said, and he sounded soothing. Kind of soft. Nothing at all like the tightly wound coils of stress Wally's Dick, the younger one, had sounded like for months.
"It was like a bomb blast. You took out parts of buildings. It's luck that no one was hurt, that there was no collateral damage," the kid said at once. Wally found himself laughing at the tone of accusation without meaning to. It was just funny. Really funny. He was the collateral damage.
Wally lifted one jelly filled arm and dropped it over his eyes. "Jason, you're the one that showed up in our world, right? You're the one that helped me find Dick when he vanished and came here?"
"One and the same," Jason said from beyond the barrier of Wally's arm.
Another bubbling laugh made its way past Wally's lips. They were kind of numb.
"So, I somehow got ran myself into your world? Wow, déjà vu. Artemis is going to kill me."