The kid's chin is set, his voice firm even through the broken nose and bloody lips. From his shadow, Jason can't help a grudging nod of respect for the Replacement's courage. He's been pumped full of Ivy's toxins himself, and if the fine tremors running through the current Robin are any indication, she's added some of Scarecrow's cocktail to her usual stuff, but the younger boy still isn't budging. "Batman's on his way, Ivy - I'd get out of here if I were you."
The green-clad figure laughs, and Jason fights back a shudder of his own (not there not there he's alive joker's in arkham snap out of it todd come on). "Afraid you're wrong there. I have it on good authority Bats is…otherwise occupied tonight. A little furry problem to take care of; I'm sure you'll understand if he can't make it, little wing."
"Don't call me that," Replacement hisses, the venom in his voice a match for whatever's running through his veins. Jason scoffs. Reacting to a villain's jibe - rookie mistake.
Ivy saunters closer to the boy, and Jason feels himself tense. It's just in case she looks this way, he tells himself, not because I'm planning on rescuing the brat. serve bruce right if he loses another robin. maybe it'll teach him to stop dragging kids into his insane crusade.
The tremors are full-on shudders now, and the Imposter cringes away as much as he can with his arms and legs pinned to the wall behind him with green creepers. "Get. Away." He grinds out. Ivy just laughs again, and Jason's moving before he realizes it.
A well-placed bola tangles around Ivy's legs, bringing her down, and an equally well-placed shot explodes into toxic smoke, withering her vines and providing enough cover for Jason to get to the kid, brush the dying tendrils of ivy off his limbs, and hoist him over one shoulder before running for the nearest fire escape.
A groggy voice in his ear whispers, "Hood?"
"Shut up, Replacement. I'm rescuing you."
There's pause while Jason shoots a grappling hook across to the next building and swings, and then the weak voice says, "Why? You hate us."
"I never said that."
"You tried to kill me." a rasping breath, "twice."
"But I didn't!"
There's a huff of air against his neck as Jason settles them on his bike, but the kid doesn't say anything else until Jason's setting him down on the steps to one of the backdoors. He rings the doorbell and turns to leave before Alfred comes to the door when he makes the mistake of glancing down. The kid's mask is off and impossibly blue eyes glazed over by the toxins meet his own. "I really did look up to you, you know. You were - I wanted to be you, so much."
"You're breaking my heart, Replacement." Jason slides his hands into his pockets, rolling his neck. "Now you are me. Having fun almost dying every other night because dear old dad won't get his hands dirty?"
The kid just smiles. "Thank you for bringing me home, Hood."
"Whatever." He turns to go when it occurs to him that it's been more than a couple minutes and no one's come to the door. "Alfred getting a bit slow in his old age?"
"No. He's -" wheeze "-out of town."
"And Bruce is with Selina, huh? So you were, what? Gonna drag yourself into the house, down two flights of stairs, and into the Cave? While drugged with who-knows-what?"
There's a pause. "Oh God. That's exactly what you were going to do, isn't it?"
"I can make it." Stubbornly.
Jason heaves a sigh and leans forward again, hoisting Robin back over his shoulder. "I'll get you into the cave and call Grayson."
There's a breathy laugh. "He won't come."
That's - not what Jason was expecting. Grayson's the Golden Boy, the perfect Robin, brother, son, and everything else, probably. Of course he'd come. He starts hunting for the spare key Alfred used to keep around here.
"Of course he'll come."
"No." the kid's eyes meet Jason's again, and the absolute certainty in them is enough to throw him off balance. "It was my own fault. I should have been faster, stronger. Better. If it had been you there wouldn't have needed to be a rescue."
"You shouldn't have been patrolling alone in the first place," Jason mutters, giving up on the key and pulling out his Glock.
"I had a gun once," the voice by his ear remarks, almost conversationally. An eyebrow raises. "Bruce is letting his little birds carry firearms now?"
"It was Before."
Jason can hear the capitals. For all of them, he guesses, there's that one big thing - the Pit, the Circus, the Alley - and everything else gets divided into Before and After. It only just occurs to him to wonder what it was for Ti- the Replacement. He shoots out the lock and shoulders the door open. There's no audible alarm, but he knows that doesn't mean anything; this is Wayne Manor, after all. Glancing down, he asks, "You know the disarm codes for this?"
"No." There's a grin that would be sweet if it didn't remind Jason uncomfortably of the business end of a shark. "I don't need them though."
He squirms around, reaching for the control panel. His hands are still shaking and he flinches occasionally, fear of something Jason can't see making him gasp and shudder, but he pushes through it until he finally lets go of the innards of the electronic mess in front of him and sinks back against the older boy. "Done."
Jason heads straight for the bed in one corner once they're in the cave, with every intention of dropping the kid onto it and calling Grayson to come deal with him, but Fate, of course, has other plans.
The second he lets go of Robin, the younger boy surges up in the bed, hands scrambling frantically at Jason and latching onto his leather jacket. "No no no no please don't go please I promise I'll do better just don't leave me again please please I won't ask for anything ever again just stay please."
Taken aback, Jason glances down at the desperate eyes meeting his and hesitates a second before shaking himself and stepping away. The toxin must be affecting the kid more than it was before. He'll look it up in Bruce's database before he goes, make sure the imposter isn't going to die in the time it takes Grayson to get here. He's not prepared for the anguished expression that crosses the boy's face as soon as he moves out of reach. He's even less prepared for the mask of calmness that descends a second later. Drake's hands entwine together tightly in front of him, eyes looking straight ahead, past Jason, to something only is seeing. "I apologize, Mother. I forgot touching is not allowed. I will be fine with the housekeeper while you and Dad are gone."
Jason stares. Then he swears, feelingly and at great length. He's heard of Janet and Jack Drake, of course, anyone who knew anything about Gotham's elite knew them, and as Bruce Wayne's ward, he'd had to interact with them a few times. Jack had smiled at him and asked if he was enjoying his new life. Janet had smiled at him and Jason was unpleasantly put in mind of a dead fish. Neither had seemed the kind to shower a little kid with affection and he knows for a fact they'd been gone for months at a time on archeology digs before they died of poisoning and Tim became Batman's ward and Jason's replacement. He looks at the trembling figure on the bed, still trying not to flinch at unseen terrors, and heaves a sigh. "Tim," he says. Gently, for him. The boy looks up. "Tim, listen to me. You're at Wayne Manor. Your parents aren't here. Do you remember what happened?"
A trace of lucidity comes into Robin's eyes and he frowns. "I- was fighting? I wasn't paying - attention. Not - not good enough. Not like Jason. Jason was a good Robin. I want to be like Jason." Blue eyes focus suddenly on Jason. "He was a hero. I'm not a hero. Maybe I'm an anti-hero. Batman reminds me of an anti-hero sometimes, you know."
"Tim, Ivy did something to you - she put a toxin in your bloodstream. Okay? Can you understand that?"
The kid looks offended, metaphorical feathers ruffling. "I am a genius. Of course I understand."
Jason manfully doesn't roll his eyes. "Then listen up, Replacement. I'm going to go over to the computer and see if I can find an antidote. You wait here, all right?"
Fear leaps into the younger boy's face and he swallows hard, hands twisting, but he nods. Jason takes a step away, then turns back, shrugging out of his jacket and dropping it into the kid's lap. "Hold that for me, would you?"
He thinks Drake must have remembered who the Red Hood is at this point, because his hands are stroking the jacket with something approaching reverence. Jason turns away abruptly, swallowing in his turn (i'm not someone to look up to little bird don't do it you set people on pedestals and they fall hard and you fall with them put grayson up there not me i'm not even an anti-hero).
Based on the symptoms (fear, paranoia, flashbacks, severe displacement), Jason manages to find out what venom Ivy used. Fortunately, it's not fatal and it should wear off in about twenty-four hours. Unfortunately, there's no antidote and there's nothing to speed it up. Drake's just going to have to sweat through it. He pulls up Dick's number. There's no answer and he doesn't bother to leave a message. Dick not answering his phone either means he's with Babs or undercover or dying and Jason is not going to waste any more of his evening playing nursemaid to Robins. Screw this, he's getting his jacket back and leaving. It's just - he checks the time - twenty more hours. The kid'll be fine. He'll leave some water and call Dick again in a couple hours. He nods firmly.
The kid is still holding his jacket. No, not holding. Clutching, like a baby just learning to walk holds on to his father's hand. He swears again, loudly, and Tim jumps, looking horrifically guilty, drops the jacket and starts apologizing again. Jason had left his red helmet on his bike, but now he reaches up and starts working the red domino off, moving towards the bed. "Okay, little bird, shove over." He toes off his boots, pads over to the storage cabinet in one corner and grabs three or four blankets out of it. Tim's pressed as far back against the wall as he can get, eyes wide and fingers still just touching the edge of the jacket, like he can't quite bear to let it go completely. Jason dumps the blankets onto the bed, pulls Tim's shoes and belt off and tosses them down by his own boots and guns, and climbs in beside him.
Tim's face is a study in seven degrees of wonder. "You're - you're staying? No one ever stays. Mother sent three nannies and two housekeepers away because they stayed. And you're Jason Todd."
Jason feels a sudden urge to dunk Janet Drake in a Lazarus Pit solely so he can have the pleasure of emptying a magazine into her. Aloud, he says, "You said it, Replacement. I'm Jason Todd. I do whatever the &*%* I want. And right now I want to sleep, got it?"
Tim nods, a smile creeping on to his face. It's a vastly different smile than Jason's ever seen on him before, and it makes him look younger than Jason ever was. The older boy rolls his eyes, sliding down under the blankets and pulling the smaller boy tight against him. "Go to sleep, little wing."
There are more nightmares than either of them want to count, but every time Tim wakes, gasping and shuddering and trying not to make any noise, Jason's there, soothing low voice grounding and settling him until they slide back into sleep, limbs tangled beneath the blankets (hey, it's not like Grayson gets the monopoly on cuddling, all right?), and when Tim wakes up after twenty-four hours, already bright red at the distorted memories he has, Jason's gone, but his leather jacket is still there, clutched in Tim's arms like the comfort objects Janet always said he was too old to have at night.
Alfred washes the blankets and sheets and Bruce makes sure Tim has an antidote next time he goes out on patrol, but Tim hides the jacket and the next time he's out near Hood's territory he slips it on instead of his cape and says to a darker shadow on a dark rooftop, "I thought you might want this back."
There's a pause, and then Jason says, "Keep it. It's cold and it looks like you forgot your cape."
"Jason." Tim says softly. "Thank you."
A longer pause. "Don't read too much into it, Replacement. It's just a jacket."
"You could - you could come again."
A startled pause. "…why the &*%* would I do that?"
"We're brothers, aren't we? Dick says cuddling is a brotherly ritual."
"Grayson's an idiot and also a lying liar. Who lies."
"…that's not a no, and Bruce is going out with Selina again."
"I'm crap at brotherly rituals."
"Still not a no," Tim sing-songs, because Jason's seen enough of his insecurities and he's trying to keep his fear of this rejection pushed as far away from the surface as possible.
There's a barely audible shuffle from the shadows and when Jason speaks Tim thinks maybe he didn't succeed as well as he hoped. His brother's voice is close to gentle again. "Take care of my jacket, little wing. And that's still not a no."