Jason is 12.
Chapter 64: Hit Me with Your Best Shot
"This is stupid," Jason hissed.
I chided, "We've talked about this, Jay. You should be honored to learn from Ted. The man taught Dick and I everything we know. Now, he's agreed to teach you."
My almost thirteen year old scowled and folded his arms as he slumped back in his seat. A smirk flashed across my face briefly as I pulled into a parking spot. Jason's scowl deepened.
"Bruce, this place looks like shit."
I frowned at the old, dilapidated building. He's right. It really does. The building looks like it belongs in Gotham. Nonetheless, I led Jason over to the front door.
Ted Grant greeted us at the front door. We shock hands and exchanged small talk before I nudged Jason forward. The man's hand practically engulfed Jason's as they shook hands.
"So yer tha new Robin?"
"And you're the famous Wildcat… I thought you'd be taller," Jason replied.
"You ain't the only one with a height disappointment, Short Stack."
Jason frowned. The boy was very insecure about his small stature. Given time, I'm sure Jason wouldn't be disappointed for long. But, he was far slower in his development than Dick had been.
"Oh my God! You know Bruce Wayne and you live in this dump!"
The three of us looked over at the stairs to find a teenager not much older than Jason but younger than Dick with long black hair bounding down the steps. The boy came up beside Ted. My mouth nearly dropped open in surprise as my eyes flicked back and forth between the two of them. The boy looks just like him.
Ted stated, "This is Tom… Boy'll be stayin with me for a few days. Tom, take Jason and get em some gear."
Tom took Jason to the back to get him set up for his training. Ted drew a syringe and a lock of hair inside a plastic bag and handed them to me. I pocketed both items in my jacket.
"I want to know who this kid is."
I replied, "I should have the results tomorrow."
"Good… How's your other boy?"
"Fine. Jason will be taking over as Robin now that Dick has decided to devote more time to the Titans."
Ted grunted in response before I said, "Ted, this place is really falling apart. If you need the money to-"
"I ain't takin no charity."
"It's not charity. It's-" I began before Jason started screaming.
"Jason!" I yelled.
Ted and I took off racing to the back just as Jason stumbled out of the changing room clutching his chest as blood slipped through his fingers. I knelt down beside him and pressed a towel against the wound. A feral growl was released from somewhere in the back.
A form started to approach from the shadows. Golden eyes watched from the darkness before the figure moved into the light. The thing looked like a gaint black cat or panther. The cat creature had claws dripping with blood. Its coat was as black as night. Its eyes were as bright as gold and its fangs as long as daggers. What is that?
The creature tasted the blood on its claws before rising from its position on the ground. Its pupils dilated before it lunged towards Jason and me. I pushed Jason behind me and caught the large cat before tossing it headfirst into the wall.
Ted knelt down beside the unconscious creature as I snapped, "Shouldn't you find Tom!"
"That is him," Ted murmured.
Jason and I gasped as the creature began to slowly transform back into a boy with shaggy black hair, blue eyes, and blood dripping from his fingertips and mouth. Ted draped a towel over his naked form before picking him up as I kept my focus on the claw marks on Jason's chest.
"How bad is it?" Ted asked.
I replied, "Not bad. It's shallow. It should heal without leaving a scar."
"There's a first aid kit upstairs."
Jason didn't utter a single word as I pulled him into my arms and carried him to the bathroom. I sat him down on the bathroom counter and peeled away what was left of his shirt.
"Are you alright?"
Jason nodded. I then asked what happened.
"I didn't mean it, Bruce. I-"
"What happened, Jason?"
He looked down at the floor in shame before saying, "Tom said his mother was murdered. He was there… I really didn't mean it but it just kinda came out. I asked him if he'd been training under you for long and he said he didn't believe in fighting unless it's necessary. Then I asked him why he was here and he told me about his mom… And I didn't mean it. It just came out. I'm sorry."
"Jason, what did you say?"
"I basically said that if he hadn't been a pussy and ran and actually fought for his mother… she might still be alive."
I sighed. "Jason, we've talked about this. Use your head before your mouth."
"And yet you still do crap like this."
His gaze lowered back to the floor as Ted walked in. I made Jason explain what had happened before asking Ted what that thing was.
"I seen it once before… He's a werepanther."
"Is that like a werewolf?" Jason asked.
"Sorta but in panther form. They got way more control though," he replied before turning to me. "I godda figure out what's with Tom. Bring yer boy back in a week or two."
In just a few short hours, we'd discovered that Tom was Ted's biological son. Which was basically a bad thing for me because it meant that Tom wouldn't be going anywhere for at least the next four years. It'd be awkward to have to apologize for pissing someone off so bad that they'd turn into a giant cat and try to kill you.
Bruce finished running some results or whatever before pushing away from the Batcomputer. He turned to me and stated, "Jason, I hope you have your apology ready because we're going back to Brooklyn at the end of the week."
"Look, I said I was sorry."
"Saying it is one thing. Meaning it is another."
I merely rolled my eyes while Bruce narrowed his. He reminded me that Tom had just lost his mother and I needed to be nice.
"And don't forget that we're helping fix the gym with a few of Ted's former students this weekend."
"The whole weekend?"
I groaned in response. This is so not what I wanted to do with my weekend.
We'd been working since dawn. There'd been no sign of Ted or Tom while we worked. Pretty much the entire Justice League and their families had come to help along with Catwoman. There was a ton of work to be done. Restoring an entire gym took a crap load of work.
Everyone stopped what they were doing immediately as we looked over to find Ted and Tom standing there. Selena Kyle took the opportunity to cuddle up to Ted and explain what was going on.
"This place was literally falling apart, Ted. It really needed a woman's touch," Selena purred before winking at Tom. "Hiya, kitten."
She draped an arm around Tom's shoulders and pulled him close before purring, "Oh Ted, he looks just like you… Just tinier and younger. I'm Selina, by the way… You might know me better as Catwoman."
"Of course, kitten. You live in your daddy's world now. You have The Justice Society, The Justice League, The Teen Titans, the sidekicks in training and then you have me… You shall learn soon enough… You have the Batfamily, the Archers, the Atlantians, the Kryptonians, the Flashes, the Magicians, Green Lanterns, the Amazons, and your father and you; Wildcat and… Tomcat."
Selena then took Tom around to meet everyone. I took the opportunity to shrink back into the shadows. I definitely was not ready for him to see me yet. He probably still hates me.
"Jason, stop trying to run," Bruce ordered. "Go on and talk to him."
How does he always know?
I took a deep breath before shooting Bruce a pleading glance. He remained emotionless and gestured to Tom with a nod. I sighed in defeat before ragging myself over to the corner where he was trying to hide from everyone in.
I could tell that he'd been crying. The red and puffy eyes gave it away. He swiped at his eyes and sniffed the snot back into his nostrils before looking at me.
"Look, I'm sorry for what I said the other day. It was stupid. We good?"
"Whatever," Tom muttered before pushing past me.
I watched him disappear upstairs. By now, several members of the League were starting to leave. I glanced over to find Bruce still talking to Clark and Diana. Knowing we weren't leaving any time soon, I begrudgingly trudged up the stairs to where Tom had disappeared. I found the door to his bedroom open as well as the entrance to the fire escape.
Tom was sitting out on the steps of the fire escape bawling his eyes out. His hands were shaking so bad he could barely get a cigarette out of the box in his hands.
"You need a light?" I offered.
He just looked up at me with a death glare before wiping his face on his shirt sleeve. He growled, "Go away!"
For a second, I thought I saw fangs. Just don't make him mad and he won't eat me.
I ignored his wish to be alone and chose to plop down beside him instead. I offered him a light, which he actually accepted. He offered me a cheap cigarette in return. The two of us just sat there and smoked for a good five minutes while I waited for him to calm down.
"Didn't think rich boys like you smoked," Tom muttered after a while.
"Just the adopted street rats."
"How long you been smoking?"
I shrugged. "Dunno. I think I was eight… My mom smoked and I picked it up from her. She said it helped when she was hungry and it took her mind off things… She died that same year."
He didn't say anything but chose to reach for another cigarette. A moment later, Tom said, "I was eleven. Everyone else was doing it so I figured what the hell… How'd she die?"
"Overdosed and choked on her own vomit… I found her. I'd say I'm sorry about your mom but you're probably tired of everyone telling you that. I get it. It sucks. I know how you feel. But, you're not completely alone."
Tom didn't say anything. He just stubbed out his cigarette on the metal railing before getting up and walking past me.
Ted said, "Here's tha deal yer a midget and a scrawny one."
I just scowled at him. I am not that small.
Ted then bent down and tied my shoestrings together while I put my helmet on and slipped my mouth guard in. Tom stood over by Bruce as they both kept their eyes on me and exchanged small talk.
Ted added, "Lesson number one; little boy equals little steps."
"This is stupid. I know how to fight."
"Good fer ya. As I was sayin, due to yer size, ya gotta take small steps," he explained before backing into his corner and yelling, "Tommy! Get suited up! Yer fighting tha Wayne brat!"
Tom's eyes grew wide as he shook his head. Bruce even looked at Ted in surprise and the man is never surprised.
"You want me to fight Tom? But, he's-"
"I thought ya said ya knew how to fight," Ted replied before yelling at his son to get in the ring again.
"I do but-"
"Then ya'll be fine. Tommy, get over here and change!"
Tom just stood there with wide eyes and repeatedly shook his head. Ted got out of the ring, walked over to his son and dragged him into the ring. Tom kept trying to tell him know but Ted wasn't having it.
A few minutes later, Tom was a werepanther in boxing gloves and a pair of shorts. He basically just stood in the corner and trembled. It was like he was having some sort of internal conflict.
Ted instructed, "Jason, use yer size to yer advantage. Small steps are key. That might change fer ya later but yer small now. Yer on offense. I want ya ta try ta hit Tom. He's gonna try ta dodge yer attacks and might even return em. Take the stance like I showed ya and stay light on yer feet."
Ted backed out of the way leaving me and Tom standing face to face. Out of nowhere, he suddenly hissed and swiped out at me. He quickly apologized and backed away.
"Tommy! Stop lettin it control you! Just dodge!"
Tom froze and put his hands back up. I took a step forward and immediately fell flat on my face.
Ted yelled, "What did I say bout them small steps!"
Getting back up, I faced Tom once again. He swallowed hard as I aimed a punch at him. He didn't block it. I hit him straight in the mouth. Tom let out a growl before knocking me flat on my back.
"Boys!" Ted yelled.
We ignored him and Tom growled, "Bring it, Tweety."
"Fine with me. Tweety always outsmarted Sylvester."