It was Superman who voiced the first comment against the couple.
Dick had a mixed reaction to what should have been a simple fact. He felt as if he really should have been expecting a reaction that fell from the "nonapproving" side of the spectrum. The information that was being judged wasn't the most acceptable thing that was brought forth to other people, so to speak. It was one thing to be gay. It was another to have fallen for the guy one was supposed to consider a brother despite the circumstances of both their adoptions. What cinched the deal was that it was Jason, of all people. Not Tim, who (despite being beyond the point of sweet and innocent) fell under Bruce's strict moral code.
Jason was a killer. That made the most difference out of them all.
A smaller part of Dick screamed once the comment made the full impact on his heart. Superman, of all people and aliens and whatever else existed in their corner of the universe, was criticizing. The person that was supposed to be the poster boy of all things good and right in the world, which included acceptance of others, was criticizing the fact that Dick was gay. There was a long list of things that the younger of the two would have been able to understand if the Man of Steel had called them out. Jason being a killer was at the top of that list. Sexual preference, on the other hand, was so far off the list it wasn't even on.
"What about you and Barbara?" Kon-El asked. His blues eyes were squinted in the way that meant a person was judging their appearance, as if that alone could mark a man as a sinner. The name hung in the air of the Watchtower, drawing in crowds of others like them. After all, never in their world had they heard an actual name that could give away the identity of Batman and his children.
"It's been years," Dick replied back, his voice having the eerie quality of Batman's that made anyone shit themselves. It was calm yet at the same time dared anyone to try and question him. The words themselves had a whole story behind them that Dick did not feel like sharing for the public to hear. Barbara had been the one to set Dick on the path he was currently on. She understood that the teenager lusted after both sides of the population, but had a heart that could only key into another one's so perfectly that, in order to compensate for the lonely nights, tried to fit into others with no avail. She broke it off with a promise to help him find his other half in the insane world that they coexisted in. In fact (which the cosmic irony not lost on Dick) she was one of the forces that pushed him and Jason together.
He loved that girl more than he could love a sister.
His conscious part of the mind felt the unknown, dark corners of the unconscious part recounting how he ended up in the conversation. It couldn't have been from Bruce: the man kept his secrets well enough that no one would be able to recreate the man if they tried. Tim followed Bruce's footsteps quite well in that regard and would have never said a word without permission from both sides of the couple. The only other person could have been
(going to murder Stephanie maybe strangle her so Jason can do the rest)
Flash looked at Superman, then at Dick, before bringing his gaze back to Superman. Unlike his protégé, Barry's mouth wasn't constantly filled with quick one liners in attempts to diffuse situations with humor. He was wiser, therefore it was somewhat expected to hear him say, "Supes, why are you trying to interfere with his love life?"
"His love life consists of a murderer." The statement didn't settle amongst them well. Especially when Dick threw a punch that actually sent the other man reeling towards the nearby wall.
"He's not a murderer." The statement lacked the Batman quality of a calm overtone. It channeled as much anger as Bruce's could, but dropped rather than infected.
Fierce, blue eyes shone back-
(too much like the sky to be Jason's too bright too naïve too
-in the same criticizing manner that just seemed odd for Superman. "Then what do you call it? What does Batman call it?"
(calls Barbara out but not Bruce not aster at all)
"In Gotham-" Dick began in a voice so steady that it scared even him. None of his previous anger shone in the two words, but there was some other weight in them that dared anyone to question him. It implied that those who try will be killed with just a glance. The tone was beyond what Bruce used and one that Jason would be proud of. "-there is a difference between a killer and a murderer. Murders have intention. Killings just happen."
The world seemed to freeze at the words. The only one to show any kind of life beyond shock was Dinah, who instead gave a look that meant she fully understood what he meant. Growing up in Gotham did that to people.
"I'm outta here," he muttered finally, heading to the transporter. No one had said anything, but nothing was needed for Dick to realize what kind of world he was living in. Judgment had been cast: Nightwing was insane to fall for someone who would kill, which went directly against what the Justice League stood for. The pure idealistic side of everyone in the League could not stand to let Dick's choice of love be. It just simply wasn't done that way.
But nothing was ever so simple.
It was Tim-
(not Jason he's out on his own runs back later)
-who was sitting carefully on the ledge of the window at one o'clock in the morning that woke him up. Dick had been expecting someone from the family to find out and come over to the hole of an apartment that Jason had currently called "home." It didn't matter to the first Robin who it was, as long as they came late enough so that, by then, any possible tears that had to be shed were already dried up and tossed away.
The bed that he had fallen asleep in was hard and had the springs attacking where they could, leaving red and unfavorable marks upon his toned body. The sheets were colored with age, dirt, and the nights where it was easier to collapse than tend to the wounds. It was probably the worst bed that Dick had slept in in his whole two decades of living, but it was okay. His hand found the pillow before pushing the rest of him up to greet his youngest brother. "Did Superman-"
"He can't touch Jay. It's Batman's territory, after all. And even besides that, we carry around enough Kryptonite to kill him." The youngest of the Robin's slid off the edge so that his feet were actually touching the floor before closing the window in a graceful, quiet motion. What little moonlight and artificial light from the street lamps revealed hints of the black, red, and yellow that made up the current Robin costume. "The way we've been trained, no one can touch Jay but Dad. And Dad understands everything too much to try."
Dick's head tilted slightly with his agreement. Bruce had been thorough with each of their training out of pure concern of the dangers of the world. What each did with their training was a whole other matter, but it was their choice alone and that made any appreciation that the three had grow. It was what bonded the dysfunctional family together in the end. Even Jason was given the utmost care and concern from Bruce, receiving some financial aid and gadgets and such. Kryptonite was a part of the deal, as being on the wrong side of the so called "Man of Steel" who seemed to have a limitless array of powers wasn't the most ideal place Batman wanted to find any of the Robins in.
"I'm guessing you heard," he said finally, pulling himself together to sit up without any support of his arm. The sleep disappeared from his eyes with the rush of adrenaline that filled him every time he woke in the middle of the night.
Tim let out what sounded like a mocking kind of grunt. "Who hasn't? Turns out the Justice League has bigger mouths in it than the bitches at school had."
it still sounds weird to hear you swear."
"You can blame Kon for that." Tim's posture changed. The rigid position of his body fell slightly at the thought of his teammate from the Young Justice group. "We've
we've been seeing a lot of movies as of late. Mostly action and mysteries and stuff. And aggression-"
"I know the study, Baby Bird. We did the experiment for school together, remember?" The memory of a happier, simpler time of their lives-
(because it had lies because we thought it was not as bad because we lied to ourselves)
-where the two had replicated a psychology experiment for Tim's school project filled Dick's head. Jason had agreed to be apart of it on his own will, which the brothers had found amazing since it usually took a lot of coercing to get him to do anything with them. It was during the time where the eldest of the trio began to notice things about the second Robin. If he wanted to label it, Dick would have said it was the beginning of the crush that grew to what it was.
" Despite the lighting, Dick was certain that Tim was blushing at the thought of Superboy. "Stephanie is probably getting an earful from Dad. He's not happy that the rest of the League is trying to meddle with our love lives. Not to mention it gives him a reason to yell at Clark-"
"Has he ever needed a reason?" A chuckle escaped his bruised soul. "Just lock them in a room, tell them they can't get out without having sex, and let the sexual tension do the rest. God, if-" The words paused as his breath trying to grasp back the small joy from his chuckle. "Damn it. No wonder they never got together. Clark is a fucking homophobe."
The Robin mask shifted up slightly with the gesture of raising an eyebrow that went on beneath it. "Seriously? This mess is because he's a homophobe? As in-"
"Yeah, Superman. This shit is so messed up." The bed suddenly looked comforting, calling for Dick to lose himself in the sheets and let sleep reclaim him. After all, sleep only held the illusions of dreams and nightmares. And sometimes the things out of his control looked better than everything around him. His eyes closed halfway with silent want and sadness. "It's also the fact that Jay is who he is-"
(killer insane uncaring total bastard
"-but the first thing he reacted to was the fact that I was gay. Asked about Babs like I was causing her great pain or something."
she's the one who shoved you together."
"Yup." Dick cast his gaze upon the floor, glancing at the shadows playing against the marred wood. "Thanks for checking in on me, Tim. But don't you have patrol or homework or something?"
"Well, I had this crazy older brother I had to talk to. You've seen him: toting guns, sneering at everyone he sees-"
"Sarcasm doesn't suit you well, Baby Bird." His weight suddenly dropped him against the bed, his head landing in dead center of the pillow. "Tell Kon I said hi. And I'll talk to Dad in the morning."
A pause filled with silence greeted the statement. Dick's stomach churned with uneasiness when Tim didn't answer him back instantly. The eldest brother shifted his head back slightly so that his blue eyes, scarred by the horrors he had witnessed since the fateful day at the circus, focused on what red of the Robin costume he could see in the bad lighting. "Tim."
Ah, Clark somehow managed to snag the chance of coming here to interview Bruce Wayne tomorrow. He told his boss he might stay longer to relax. We think he wants to track you and Jason down."
(shit fuck why would he even tempt Bruce to kill him fuck)
"We have to relocate, don't we?" Dick finally said, his voice taking upon the same Batman tone that he used earlier that day against the Man of Steel. It didn't affect the current Robin as they both knew the anger was towards the same man that it was for earlier.
A curt nod told him everything. "Dad hopes it's only temporary, but since the whole League knows what happens
" Tim took a second to gather the right words to describe the situation that the first two Robins were trapped in. "Dad is a lot of things, but he isn't Superman."
The sentence explained everything. While there was a long, ongoing list of what Bruce Wayne was, being the optimistic Kryptonian who could charm just about anyone wasn't one of them. Even as the official leader of the League, there was only so little he could do before Superman could undo it all and declare Dick a criminal that had to be caught alongside Jason.
It wasn't the sinner of the two that dragged them both into the darkness that the Justice League deemed as evil. Rather, it was Superman's ability to label love as sin that sent them both for death.
The midnight move was not as taxing as Dick thought it would be. He had overestimated the amount of things that he thought that they definitely needed to take (as both he and Jason had learned that even pure necessities could be cut down enough to fit into a small bag), giving him more room in his plan to actually figure out what to do. In the end, he reasoned to himself that it would be best to use one of Bruce's safe houses for a day until Jason found out that the aftermath of the mess was bigger than expected. Once Jason reacted to the news (which could take hours for the other to calm down and think in ideas that were something other than murder) he would surely pull a contact out of midair that could set the couple up far away from the other heroes and allow Jason to continue the shady business that he called justice. The thoughts made sure that Dick was not sent into any sort of panic that would have ensured him messing everything up. He was relatively calm as he packed the bags, placed them into the car, and prepared to drive away from the place he called home. It was only when he had gotten quite a distance away from Gotham in the lonely car that he lost some of his composure. But everything was okay even in that bleak moment; somehow, the world was still aligned with the rest of the universe and continued on as it usually did.
He lost track of the time of took him to reach the safe house. It had to have been several hours, as that was the only explanation for why the sun was rising when he finally parked the car. Instead of checking exactly where he was, Dick had locked the door, found a bedroom, and collapsed into a deep slumber that lasted most of the day.
He woke up towards twilight, ungracefully and hungry. His feet led him into the kitchen of the house with his stomach on full agreement as his mind began to finally take in the house he brought himself to. It was too big and nice for it to be one of the places Batman would use during an investigation. Rather, it was a house that Bruce Wayne had bought on a whim and used a few times a year when business led him to the area. The sheer size would easily host several night parties without the need to spill into the yard (not that it ever stopped it from ever happening). The furnishing was extravagant and expensive and absolutely pointless to have beyond the point of showing off wealth. The structure was pure of the nightly grime and sin that the true identity of Bruce Wayne carried around with the cowl. In essence, it spoke of the rich but really meant nothing to the owner.
Dick was not surprised to see the hints of his arrival had left an impression that was like black paint on white. It proved and condemned his existence in the space, yet at the same time greeted him as if he was a friend. Out of everything in the hell he called his life, it opened its arms and allowed him in. Despite being meaningless, Dick found the house to be like Bruce: caring for the well being of his children despite whatever sins the world had marked them in. It made the young man feel better.
He opened a box of cereal and took a glass of tap water from the sink to accompany it. He sat in a corner of the kitchen, next to a wooden cabinet and cold glass that offered a glimpse of the outside world. Shadows overtook his presence, offering what little comfort that they could.
And somehow, things in Dick's niche of the universe were okay.
The arrival of Jason waited past the point of the meal by several hours. By then Dick had relocated back into the room with the bed. He was reading one of the several books that adorned the small shelf that hid under the nightstand. It was a hardcover copy of The Great Gatsby. The irony of the book in the house was not lost upon the first Robin. In fact, he would go as far as to say that Bruce put it there on purpose as a joke for those who have actually read the small book. The other half of the explanation was that it had been a favorite piece amongst all of the Robins. It held the pain of love and the illusion of what the rich life was, which they had been able to understand with life as a charge of Bruce Wayne. Even Jason had admitted that it was a good book.
The footsteps did not stop his reading. Instead, it was the stop of the rhythm of a broken man. A hand found its way to the curve of his back the same time the bed dipped under additional weight. Dick closed the book and placed it gently upon the nightstand. Neither said a single word for the moments that crawled by.
In the end, it was Dick who talked first.
"Not your fault Clark is a fucking homophobe." The curse fell in place with the words because it was Jason who said it. With Jason, curses came naturally. Tim could never make it work simply because he wasn't-
(marred or deadly or uncaring or Jason)
-the type to swear. But Jason was. "Besides, you actually have enough brains to not talk about it so openly. Stephanie, on the other hand, should learn to shut the trap hole she calls her mouth. Honestly, why the hell was she allowed to find out? In fact-"
"Jay, stop. Please." A sigh fell into place after the words. "We have bigger problems."
"Damn right. Need a Kryptonite-"
The other man sighed. "Blüdhaven. There's a place there for us to settle there. Cheap, relatively better than the shit hole I had in Gotham, and full of enough people to keep us both in work."
"And the League?"
"Hasn't touched it. They never learned how to handle places like Gotham and Bruce never taught them. We'll be fine." The hand moved itself lower onto Dick's back. "And I have backup plans if the little fuckers do figure out where we are."
A smile began to paint itself upon Dick's face. He made no move to change his position on the bed with his stomach pressed against the pure white sheets. But a simple turn of his head brought his gaze upon blue eyes that were so different than any others he had known. The scars on Bruce's eyes had dulled from knowledge and wisdom and simple time. Tim's were just a shade too bright from the lack of experience of the harsh cruel world that came with his young age, and the scars suffered from looking at horrors were still too new and not completely him. Clark's were a blazing sky blue that stood against everything Gotham was. But Jason's were just right, with a shade of blue that perfectly matched the horrors that had left their mark upon him. Under the red mask that the second Robin now donned there were his gorgeous blue eyes that said so much in silent rage.
Jason closed his eyes and brought his lips to Dick's shoulder blade. "We'll show the world wrong, Dick. I'll teach those fuckers a lesson for you." The kisses moved to his other shoulder blade before following his spine down his back. It became a moment of whispered promises that hid under passion because they don't know where to place themselves. Contact of skin became a security blanket for the scared child in them both to hide under while the storm howled. There was stillness in their frantic movements as Jason tried to prove his love and devotion in the only way he knew how to. Trinkets meant nothing to either of them.
They never called the act "sex." It was the difference between a killing and a murder.
Dick knew that there were distinct lines in the difference of definitions that could easily be mistaken with the wrong type of mindset. He could not blame those who did such a thing as long as the line was still there. So it was with great irony that the young man became one of those people with a single bullet and rush of emotions.
His steps found themselves in Gotham long after Clark left. He arrived with a promise to Jason to return before twenty-four hours had passed and a wish to give a proper goodbye to the dysfunctional group of people he called his family. Physically, he only had the motorcycle that his lover had lent him and the clothes on his back.
That was before the sharp cold metal of the gun tucked into his waistband reminded him that there was always more to simple appearances.
Something called him to Barbara. If Dick had any words to describe it, it was a "moral obligation." He had not taken the time to leave her any sort of farewell at the time of his disappearance, which left an unpleasant burning at the back of his throat the more he thought upon the subject. The woman was, after all, the reason for why the first two Robins had gotten together. (Dick also had a suspicion that she shoved Tim towards Kon and wouldn't have been at all surprised if he found out that this was the truth.)
The adrenaline started to course through his veins once he noticed that the door that separated the apartment from the rest of the world was forced open. The tell tale marks were too simple to make it an ordinary attempt: rather, it was only the plain cover of the tragedy it was about to tell. Dick's fingers unconsciously dropped the box of chocolates upon the dingy floor and took up the gun.
His memory started to play tricks on the young man as he inched the door slowly open. It was as if-
(stress makes memory sharper)
-it was telling him that-
(but too much can destroy a person)
-he was going to something that he would-
(mind can morph morals in order to justify)
It was a flash of skin bleached white that set him off. Red lips adorned the white contrast in a twisted grin that had filled Dick's nightmares since his first encounter with the man at the tender, impressionable age of nine. The purple and green outlandish suit just gave the demon an appearance of dark humor that was so much like Batman-
-in the regard that he had taken something ambiguous and shoved a sinister air down its throat. A white glove was grasping a gun that was very similar to the one that Jason had made Dick take, but there was an obvious difference. The weight of the cold metal was comfortable to the murderer while it was a stranger to the once vigilante. A simple pull of the trigger never weighed upon the conscious of the other. Dick could barely think of pulling the trigger without his gut pulling him into a wave of sickness. Experience versus novelty.
The murderer just smiled widely. "Ah, Babs! You never told me you had guests besides your dear old dad! Why, if I've known-"
The swirl of red hair at the demon's feet was all that was needed to pull the trigger.
The sound of the gunshot seemed to echo in the room as if it had no where else to escape to. Joker's grin never left his accursed face, but the barest hints of shock had begun to register in his eyes before they rolled back into his head. The collapse of the warm corpse brought no life into the blues eyes. Dick's hand started clutching to the cold metal, shaking under the pure force of understanding. Suddenly nothing was right in his world-
(not a murderer)
-and somewhere in the darkness he wondered-
(but a killer)
-if he had been too late.
A second could have passed. So could an hour. Maybe even a day would have escaped his notice as the blood finally began to stain the floor. His shaking hand brought down the metal weapon in its shaking grasp, not sure what else to do. But it was Barbara's bare whisper that pulls him back to the world.
And then Dick recalled leaving through the window and being thankful that he had avoided anyone or anything that could have recorded his presence and he was on the bike and-
None of it mattered to his mind. All he knew was that he collapsed onto the tainted bed back in the place he was now forced to call home and shook as the sheets soaked up his tears.
The gun was, of course, indifferent to it all. And by morning, so was he.
By the time Jason woke up from his own slumber that took place after his questioning proved fruitless, Dick was able to steady his body so that it would not shake with every attempt of moving. He sat at the corner of the bed that was not touching any of the walls, his head slumped down by the weight of his thoughts. The window sat opposite of him. What little that could be seen of the world outside consisted of bright blue sky and contrasting grays of buildings that fell under the sun's gaze. The gun was sleeping upon the nightstand. Dick, not tearing his eyes away from the cold metal, managed to whisper in a calm voice, "I killed Joker yesterday."
The light that filtered into the small room was pure sunlight that was barely tinted by the state of the window. The heat that came off the beams felt like nothing to the older of the two men. Everything in the room was tainted by age and only beginning to get the experience of being with the two former Robins. The bed was almost no better than the last one that Jason called his own, with the only minor difference of the red marks from the springs being of a lighter shade. The floor was covered in dents from previous owners and guests, each hiding their story from the rest of the world.
"I should have."
"He was planning to kidnap Barbara to hold as ransom against the Commissioner. I thought she was actually dead for a few seconds." Dick tossed his head back. His black hair followed the motion mindlessly. "I managed to hit him right in between the eyes. Son of a bitch."
A silence began to settle itself between them before Jason asked, "And Babs?"
"She's fine. Was just tossed out of the wheelchair and didn't get a chance to sit up to kick the bastard's ass. Didn't need my help
" Dick's gaze found itself upon the floor. "Damn it."
The direction of who the words were meant for was not lost upon the other man. His hand landed upon Dick's shoulder softly. "I wanted my first kill to be the son of a bitch to get back at him. Didn't work out that way. I got some mugger as my first. What set me off was that the fucker couldn't keep his mouth shut on his plan to rape as many women he could that night for some bet or somethin'. I just pulled out a gun and put a bullet through his head like it was nobody's business."
"Dad could never finish that case properly. Someone managed to destroy all of the evidence," Dick reminisced. "I guess I shouldn't be surprised that he just dropped it."
"He probably knew that it was me then."
The brighter of the blue eyes fell upon the floor. "Hey, Jay?"
"You think Dad's
gonna forgive me?" The question spilled out from the cluster of fear that had been sitting with the young man since he pulled the trigger. "Because you're
(disregarding uncaring dangerous handsome lustful killer)
"Well, you. And I'm not."
Jason sighed loudly and dramatically. "Tim said how Dad isn't Clark, right?"
"Well, at the same time they're not similar, they are. Wasn't it you who said 'It's impossible for opposites to attract' or some bullshit like that?" The tone had suddenly become tired and lazy. Dick could understand: the words were part of a truth too old that it had become boring to repeat it. "It doesn't matter. What matters is that the old man would probably kill himself before letting this get to him. There are some things that even he doesn't like to see happen but let it does anyways. We'll just be a part of that list."
It was the "we" in the statement that brings lust into Dick's eyes. He turned his head slightly before falling upon Jason. Their lips met over the pillow as another ritual of proving their love to each other started. There was no rush as morning had just woken up. The touches were deliberate and had more thought in their placement. The kisses were more precise. The results left more of an impact on his soul than the echoing gunshot in the apartment.
The bullet in the corpse no longer mattered to Dick. It was part of the outside world, and all he cared for was what was between Jason and him.
Kon was the one to deliver the news of the aftermath. The ever present scowl on his face was tired by travel, yet his eyes were intensely taking in the surroundings. He arrived at dinnertime so Dick, naturally, offered him some food. The two subs didn't last long between the trio.
The clone's gaze settled onto the wooden table that was faded from use. "Bruce said that he wasn't upset. He said that you two found the difference between a killer and a murderer."
The couple shared a glance. There was something disconcerting about hearing their father make the same distinction between the two as they did. Jason had done so because even he felt as if there was a difference when he extracted his brand of justice on the world. Dick had learned it when he had fallen for Jason. Tim had learned it as well as the only measure to allow himself a peaceful sleep at night after finding a corpse from Jason's work. But for Batman to use their definition meant that he had chosen love over logic, which was impossible for he was Batman.
"You sure it wasn't Tim who said that?" Jason asked. The chair he was sitting on creaked as he shifted his weight. The wood that made it up was different than the one that made up the other chairs or the table, yet they all shared the same scars.
Kon shook his head. "Tim said be careful. Bruce went on a... Tim called it a tirade. He said that he could never define the line and that's why he's Batman and not someone else."
It was a backhanded compliment, but as even those were rare from the Dark Knight his two previous sidekicks knew that there was more to it. The fact that Bruce went on a tirade about what had happened was not lost on them either. Bruce was never one to talk out every single problem he saw out in the world. Rather, he either dealt with it or made enough snipes about it that one could sense his displeasure.
"How about everyone else? Do they know it was me?" Dick asked.
"No. They thought that it was a random grunt who wasn't happy. That's the official police report, too." Kon turned his head ever so slightly towards the eldest of the three. "You okay?"
Jason's hand squeezed Dick's hand on the table as a sign of his reassurance. He knew what it was like to feel after the first kill. A murder was too complex for him, but a simple kill was too easy. "Never felt better," Dick answered.
Kon nodded. "Uh, Bruce also told me to give this to you." A black velvet box fell onto the table with a soft, graceful thump. The first Robin could only stare at the jewelry box as his mind began to rack itself with questions. "Something about providing the weddings rings so you can skip the wedding."
Jason opened the box with rushed, harsh movements. Two wedding bands lay inside, each made of simple gold. Nothing made them special from physical appearance, yet compared to the surroundings they were two beams of light in shadows. And as with everything in Batman's world, they meant more than simple appearance.
Since that day the two wore the bands. They were not simple trinkets as other pieces of jewelry or objects, which could have been lost by will or not. The difference was beyond the other simple lines of their life: this time, it was like night and day.
There were more deaths within the month that changed the normal balance of the everyday lives of the hero community. Both led back to a single truth: that Dick had fallen for the second Robin and by some miracle his feelings were reciprocated. However, that truth that tied everything together was not the motive, but rather the saving point.
It had been slightly over a week when things went crashing for Young Justice. The sun was hiding in Blüdhaven but not in the downcast way that foretold rain. It was simply hidden from the city painted in gray overtones and undertones, the hints of blood blending it with ease. Dick had joined part of the population that always carried metal-
-as he roamed the streets. The weight was no longer a burden, but a comfort. That realization drew another line in his mind that defined two distinct, different groups. The problem became the fact that the new line was really just a blur of another idea.
He had been at the apartment on that faithful day. The sweatpants he had managed to find out of the pile of clothing the couple had left upon the floor from the previous night were still too loose to fit comfortably on his structured frame. The monotone blue with faded white lettering fell in extravagantly long waves before pooling at his feet. The blue tangled with the small amount of red cloth that fell at Jason's feet. The younger man had wrapped his arms around his lover possessively, pressing the palms of his hands against the small of Dick's back. In return, Dick had threaded his fingers through the midnight black hair with a smile of content. The mornings, while sharply contrasting those they shared in Gotham, had become kinder than exile would have made them appear.
A knock brought the shared gaze to a halting break. Jason's hands pushed deeper into Dick's back. "Who's the fucker-"
"Jay," Dick repeated, enjoying the way the name fell off his tongue, "don't go swearing out the little old lady who lives down the street and wants to give us cookies."
"They still exist?"
"Well, it's nice to dream." He quickly glanced around the room for something that would hide his chest from any possible prying eyes. "Where is my-"
"Too late." The sound of the door opening quickly followed the statement.
(same skills for all Robins)
"Jay, you- Dad!"
Bruce Wayne stood at the doorway, his face indifferent to anything that he was seeing. His clothes were not the type that screamed of money like the safe house. The corners of cloth were rounder than the sharp suits of the billionaire. The teenage girl that stood by his side with a blank expression only made the soft scene that more urging.
"Artemis." The blonde girl only looked up slightly at the sound of her given name. Her blue eyes were-
(shattered broken dull
-cold. Her entire body was slouched into the black and white clothing that she had donned. The contrast between the two colors did nothing to divert attention from the mix of Vietnamese and Caucasian features in her.
Jason watched her with a calculating gaze. His blue eyes flickered to hers before he stated, "You killed someone."
Artemis did not protest the fact. Instead, her body seemed to have stiffened from the words and at the same time was pulled down by the weight of the meaning. Her eyes dropped down to the floor, the blue hue growing darker under half opened eyelids.
Dick stepped up and brought the girl into his arms. Slowly, he took her into the small room that they were forced to call a bedroom and sat her down at the edge of the bed. She did not react to any of the movements or the state of the room. It was as if she were a puppet and nothing more to the world, blending into the dullness of the area.
"It was your father, wasn't it?" Dick asked softly. He had known quite a bit about her background and it was the only thing that made sense to him. Unlike him and the Joker, there was something bigger needed to set the girl off to kill the man.
"He murdered Mom." The statement came out short and emotionless. However, the torrent of tears that fell afterwards broke whatever façade the girl was trying to hold upon herself. She collapsed sideways onto the bed. Her eyes were shut tightly as her head landed on his lap. "He killed her as if she meant nothing to him right in front of me. And then he said I had to get over it because she was weak and
Dick placed a hand on her shoulder. It was full of muscles that were strong but suddenly giving way to grief and pain. He knew that Artemis was not crying over the killing or the moment or the fact that the Justice League had now labeled her a killer. She was crying over her mother and what little peace she had lost from her actions.
"What did Kaldur and M'gann say?"
A fist clenched against his knee. The answer came in a hushed tone that hid anything but faux indifference to the events. "M'gann was just sad. She told me everything was going to be okay and that she'll protect me. Kaldur didn't say anything." Her body started to shake slightly. "He'll convince M'gann away from me. They won't love me anymore because they have morals and I'm just a killer to them."
"You never know."
(look at Jay and me)
"But it's Kaldur. His whole thing is about following rules and stuff. Just being with me and M'gann at the same time was a stress for him to understand." The tears began to dry on her cheeks, but the blue eyes were still shut tight against the rest of the world. "They don't come from Gotham. They can't understand."
Dick nodded his head, despite realizing that she couldn't see the motion. His hand began to rub small circles onto her back. It was the same action that his mother took when he had nightmares-
(but they were only illusions this is reality)
-and could not fall back to sleep.
"It doesn't matter." Tim's whisper ghosted over the room, bringing both Dick and Artemis out of their thoughts. The youngest of the Robins sat under the window, legs crossed and his elbows leaning against them. His head was propped up by his hands. The posture should have given him the appearance of a bored teenager at school. But it was the eyes that shocked Dick. They were a vibrant blue that was different than the ones of other heroes. Instead of sky blue that sung of happiness, they had a distinctly Joker like quality. "They'll know the difference between a kill and a murder very soon. Once Wally-"
"Tim," Dick said, his tone soft yet harsh and commanding, "what did you-"
"I murdered his father. The stupid son of a bitch-"
"-deserved it. And the others
" A chuckle erupted from the teenager. "I had to help Artemis."
The girl reacted violently when she heard her name. The jerky rising turned into a sprint off the bed, and finally ended with collapsing by Tim's side. They just stared at each other for a second or two before collapsing into each other's arms and started to cry together.
The eldest boy-
(we're all children again)
-allowed his feet to bring him back outside the room. The brown and gray tones of the room washed over him as his sense of understanding the insanity he was living through began to find a balance with his mind. The sight of the youngest Kryptonian did not help matters. "Do you-"
Kon gave a curt nod. "They just found out about Tim when I was leaving. Clark sounded really upset about it all. I think he said something about Bruce corrupting children to become killers." His stance was rigid and straight, contrasting completely to the way his eyes screamed about how tired he was. "They'll find us soon, won't they?"
Dick didn't bother asking what the clone's intentions were. Relief had coursed through his veins at the mention of "us" because it meant that Tim was not alone to face the demons-
-of the world. Instead, he asked, "What about the others?"
"Wally wasn't back yet," Kon reported, "and Kaldur refused to talk to anyone. M'gann was staring at Artemis's room. She wouldn't react to anything else."
"Doesn't matter," Jason muttered, stepping out of the doorway that led to the kitchen. "We have to figure this shit out before the fuckers in space actually realize what the hell their supposed to do." Casting a glance at Dick, he added, "Dad left because the League called. Kon came in then and explained everything."
"You have a plan?"
"Yup. Need to bring Baby Bird, but he could do with the air." A fingerless biker glove was pulled off of the floor and slipped onto his right hand. "I'll bring the birdie back once I get everything set up. If we're lucky, I won't have to blow any shit up."
(only twenty years old)
-of the whole group nodded at words. There was silence that filled in the place where usual couples would wish their significant other luck or be well off. But they could not be that normal couple for the world was against them and only offered small shelters.
If they hadn't lived in Gotham, who knew how long they would have survived.
It was late when Jason arrived back to the apartment with a calmer looking Tim. The stars hid behind lingering clouds. Dick had taken occupancy near the window, his eyes rarely leaving the pavement outside in fear that he would suddenly see Tim's body there. The other two teenagers were on the couch, both heads hanging low at the thought that Tim had murdered someone. There had been some chatter every once in a while, but it always fell when thoughts of their youngest teammate began to rise.
The arrival of the two Robins was loud and pronounced: Jason had simply kicked the door open as hard as he could. A large bottle of what Dick had to guess to be hard liquor was tucked under one arm, while the other held a large box. Jason went straight towards the few cabinets within the kitchen as Tim sat himself between the two teenagers on the couch.
Artemis asked the first question. "Was it to help me?"
"Yes and no." Tim shut his blue eyes that had managed to lose color within a short span of time. "Wally kept coming back with hidden bruises. I tried to get someone to listen but... Well, I guess the League had better things to do. And Bruce was always busy so..." His back met the couch as he searched for the words. "I probably would have done something just as bad even before the shit between you and your dad happened."
"It doesn't matter, really," Dick reasoned. "It's all whelming, but it's done. There is nothing that can change it."
"But what do we do now?" Kon asked.
"You stay." Jason's voice preceded his reappearance as he entered the area, five shots of the clear liquor balanced upon the box. "The fuckers at the League are probably planning to search you three out, so we'll go in hiding for a bit. Some of it should blow over enough so that when we're done with training-"
"Training?" asked Dick.
"Yes, training. One of my contacts has the stuff we need and the experience to help. Not the best of people, but she'll get the job done and give us shelter."
Dick felt as if he should have glared at the other when he came to realization of who his lover was talking about. His head was spinning at the idea of training with her of all people. But Jason was right. She would willingly help and better them so that they could-
(and then what?)
The small glasses were passed around. No one gave a hint of protest at the age of the group. It was too late to care and only the burn could heal them. Jason was the first to down his share of the drink before he opened the box and began to take out the contents.
"It's the same kind of gun me and Dick use. Shouldn't be too hard. It'll save your ass of you need it." There were three of them, one for each of the teenagers on the couch. Kon examined his with great intensity once Jason handed him one. The other two just cast it a glance before tucking it away for later use. The mask of indifference the two wore reminded Dick on just how much Gotham could desensitize even children to the world of violence. He should have known: he was the first amongst them to suffer under its constant appearance.
The next thing to come out of the box was a crossbow. It wasn't loaded, but Jason treated it with the same care as if it had been. It was new or gently used, with the metal and wood outshining its surroundings with the barest of help from what little artificial light that was able to filter through the small window. After a quick examination, the second Robin held it out for the only girl amongst them. "Your mother was once Tigress. She never wanted you to take her path of life, but there's no time to choose. Make the name proud and make those who cross your path suffer."
Artemis gave a curt nod. Her eyes had tears forming at the edges, but were quickly brushed away before she took the crossbow. "She always said that I had to make the choice in the end," she muttered softly into the night air. "Thank you."
Jason glanced at Dick after she said that. The elder one of the two knew that being thanked for such a thing was nothing that Jason had ever expected to happen. It was a symbol of the world that they knew suddenly ending.
Dick looked at the small glass in his hand before downing the liquid within it. The rough burn within his throat reminded him of crying.
The next item out of the box was the last thing that Jason had gotten. It was a large black t-shirt that he unceremoniously tossed over to Kon. Even in the darkness Dick could see that his lover had folded the shirt so the chest, bare of any shields or symbols, was facing outwards. The clone instantly understood what it was meant to stand and began to pull off his shirt to replace it.
Everyone was quiet as the act was completed. They all just stared at the red shield on the piece of black cloth as it fluttered to the floor, crumpling upon itself. The peace wasn't meant to be long lasting, as the other two teens took a hold of opposite ends of the collar of the shirt and pulled it in different directions. The rip brought the shield apart.
And their world was at least stable.