The Young Justice: Animated Anonymous Fic Meme

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[Fill] Strays (1/?)

So, my fingers started writing this one without permission. Fair warning: this looks like it could get long. If anyone else wants to fill, please don't hesitate!

When asked, usually by a mystified Superman or a bemused Wonder Woman, Batman would say that it all began with Dick. He would deny any precedent for his ward’s actions and ignore Clark’s dopey smile and Diana’s knowing smirk with all the grace his experience with Gotham’s paparazzi had afforded him.

If Bruce was going to be honest with himself, and he was occasionally honest with himself, if not other people, it really began many years before he met Dick on the fateful night the boy watched his parents fall to their deaths.

It began when an eight year old Bruce Wayne, feeling numb and alone after witnessing the violent death of his parents began sneaking stray and wounded animals into the mansion. Three legged dogs, injured foxes, one eyed cats, sickly squirrels, and birds with broken wings; he bandaged them and fed them and relished in their company as he tried to ignore the gunshots and screams that still reverberated in the back of his head, day and night. But despite his best efforts, his companions were wild animals and while they flourished under his care; his small friends would always disappear eventually.

No matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t make them stay.

It didn’t take a long time for the lonely boy to realize that perhaps he truly was meant to be alone.

Eventually he gave up on companionship altogether and turned his obsessive gaze completely toward studying the art of revenge. The loneliness would be worth it, he thought at the ripe age of ten, if he could finally lay his parents to rest. From there he had walked a solitary path, honing himself into a weapon for justice. And although he ultimately could not get the revenge he sought, he vowed in his parents’ names that no other child would ever suffer as he had. He would make the night safe for the innocent.

Fulfilling his vow required that he sever himself from the world. He did so without regret and after so many years, he had grown used to the emptiness in his heart. He didn’t need anyone, except perhaps Alfred, and that was as it should be. Every night he donned his cape and cowl and did his duty. He had no time for strays.

That was what he told himself.

He even believed it, up until he watched two graceful birds have their wings clipped in midair. He watched the Graysons plummet to their deaths. He could have sworn he heard a gunshot echoing through the circus tent, but when he looked back on the moment, he knew the sound was only in his mind.

The shattered look on Dick Grayson’s face did not only exist in Bruce’s mind. It was a familiar look. Bruce still saw it when he looked in the mirror, most days.

He couldn’t leave the boy to the clutches of CPS. Birds were fragile creatures, Bruce knew from experience. They needed to be handled with care.

And if he saw himself in the boy, well, that was just a coincidence.

[Fill] Strays (2/?)

“This won’t be like those strays you used to keep in the southern dining room, Master Bruce,” Alfred had told him quietly once the boy was tucked away in a guest room for the night.

Bruce ducked his head slightly, feeling incredibly young under the butler’s gaze. “You knew about that?”

“You thought I didn’t?” Alfred asked dryly, raising a very British eyebrow at his employer.

“How foolish of me,” Bruce said. “You know everything, don’t you Alfred?”

Alfred neatly sidestepped the question. “He isn’t some stray that you will shelter for a few weeks before it grows restless and runs off. He’s a child, Master Bruce. A bit of a long term investment, if you will.”

“I know what – I know who he is,” Bruce said determinedly. “I know what I’m signing up for. I need to do this Alfred.”

“Very well, Sir.”

Bruce realized very quickly that he hadn’t actually known what he was getting himself into. He didn’t regret it, though. No, he’d never regret it. Because he hadn’t been wrong about one thing. He had needed it. He’d needed Dick Grayson in his life.

So, he didn’t regret the endless visits from CPS, the paperwork, the legal loopholes and hoops he had to jump through in order to make Richard his ward. Nor did he regret enduring the open questioning of his parenting abilities or the vicious rumors about his intentions toward the boy. He certainly didn’t regret the ups and the downs and all the problems caused by his actual lack of child-rearing skills that Alfred luckily made up for in spades. He didn’t regret Dick discovering his secret or eventually helping the boy find his own wings again as Robin, Batman’s partner. He would never regret watching the boy learn and grow and begin to emulate Bruce as best he could.

He didn’t regret any of it not even when his ten year old ward came back from patrol with a tiny dark haired child cradled in his arms and another, larger one at his side, clinging uneasily to the edges of Robin’s cape.

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[Fill] Strays (3/?)

“No,” Batman growled before Robin could say a word.

“But, Br– ” Robin began.

“No using our secret identities in the cave,” Batman interrupted sharply. “Or in front of civilians.”

The boy standing behind Robin flinched and ducked behind the brightly clad hero. The other child barely reacted, but the Dark Knight could see just how tightly the boy was clinging to Robin.

Batman shoved aside a rush of guilt. Taking in Robin had been a onetime thing. He was a busy man and he barely had the time and ability to raise Dick. He didn’t know what Robin was thinking, but those boys needed to go home, back to their families.

“Take them home,” Batman said curtly. “The cave isn’t a place for children.”

“But they– ” Robin began.

“We can’t take in every stray– ”

“No one’s asked you to!” came a high pitched shout from behind Robin.

Batman turned narrowed eyes on the child who had the nerve to interrupt him.

“If you don’t want us, we can just go!” the boy said, stepping out from behind Robin and glaring at the caped crusader. It would have been an impressive display if the grubby child wasn’t still clinging to Robin’s cape with one hand. “We were doing just fine by ourselves before Boy Blunder stuck his nose where it wasn’t wanted.”

“By themselves?” Batman repeated slowly, turning his attention back to Robin.

“They’ve got nowhere to go, Batman,” Robin said. “They were living in a box. In Crime Alley.”

Bruce grimaced and took a deep breath. He did not want to have this conversation in front of a bunch of street children. He’d had this conversation with his own father once, a very long time ago. He had been too young to understand it then, but for all that it hurt, it was the truth.

“We can’t save everyone Robin, not like this. It’s the system that needs – ” Batman began patiently.

“I don’t want to save everyone, I want to save them. Bru– ” Robin interjected only for Batman to speak right over him.

“Robin– ” Batman growled warningly.


A quiet, painfully young voice stopped Batman and Robin’s steadily escalating argument dead in its tracks. The little boy in Robin’s arms was looking up at Bruce with solemn blue eyes.

Please. Don’t be mad at Dick, Mr. Wayne. It isn’t his fault.”

Batman froze at those words. Pity was one thing, but risking their identities so carelessly? He had taught the boy better than that.

“You told them-” Batman rumbled.

“Shut up!” the first child shouted, drawing Batman’s ire away from Robin and the smaller boy. “Listen to what he fucking said, you asshole. It isn’t Robin’s fault.”

“Language,” Bruce corrected automatically, his anger momentarily defused by the boy’s foul mouth, and then completely defused by the actual content of the boy’s words.

[Fill] Strays (4/?)

“Oh, that’s rich,” the boy said mockingly. “I’ll fucking say whatever the fuck I want you– ”

“Jason,” the second boy said before Batman could get a word in edgewise. “You’re not helping. He’s justified in being angry. We don’t belong here.”

“Of course you be– ” Robin started.

“Oh, boo hoo, he’s all angry, but Robin didn’t tell us jack,” the first child, Jason, apparently, spoke over Batman’s partner.

“So not helping your case squirt,” Robin scolded lightly, completely unbothered at being steamrolled by the younger boy.

Batman frowned. If Robin hadn’t told them, then how…

“Robin, tell me exactly what happened tonight,” he commanded.

“Bruce, look,” the boy wonder said, shifting his hold on the smaller boy. “I’ll tell you everything, but these two, and me, really, we’ve had a long night and it’s kind of a long story…so, why don’t I go get them cleaned up and find a bed for them and then I’ll give you my full report.”

Batman thought that was a horrible idea. Bruce, on the other hand, couldn’t quite say no to the earnest expression on his ward’s face as he clutched the tiny child his arms.

Batman glowered at the three children before him. “…Have Alfred look after them,” he said finally. “They can stay the night. Only the night,” he added with a grimace at how hopeful all three children suddenly looked. “Then report to my office. Immediately, Robin. Understood?” he ordered, doing his best to salvage his dignity.

“You betcha, Boss,” his ward said brightly, almost dismissively. He practically floated to the cave exit, trailing Jason who was still clutching Robin’s cape like a lifeline and holding the other boy tightly in his arms, whispering conspiratorially as he went, “Tim-Tim, you know who Alfred is, right? Don’t be shy! He’ll adore you. He keeps us all sane and makes the most asterous cookies.”

“Asterous?” Jason asked skeptically.

“Totally,” Dick agreed as their voices faded into the distance. “Just wait till you taste them!”

Bruce sighed tiredly and attempted to steel himself for his imminent confrontation with his ward. He knew what Dick was going to ask him. He needed to say no. The issue of their secret identities aside, those boys did not belong in his dark world. Dick barely belonged there as it was. If he was more responsible he would even send Dick away. But he wasn’t strong enough for that. These days he didn’t know what he’d do without his Robin to brighten his life.

Those children, on the other hand…

He would deal with the leak of his and Robin’s identities and then he would see to it that the boys were placed somewhere nice. Dick would appreciate that. He would let them stay the night and then Bruce would have them sent somewhere safe and happy and far away from the shadow of Gotham.

Yes, that was what he would do.

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[Fill] Strays (5/?)


Except that wasn’t quite what happened.


“They saved my life, Bruce,” Dick explained seriously a short time later in Bruce’s study. “They risked their lives to distract Clayface, who we need to go after tomorrow night, by the way, and gave me enough time to get us out of there.”

“Clayface?” Bruce questioned, but decided to set that concern aside until he had handled the matter at hand. “What were those kids doing anywhere near a crime scene?” he demanded. Street children, especially the young ones, generally knew to steer clear of Gotham’s criminal element. The ones that didn’t…well, despite everything Batman did, they tended not to survive very long.

“They were…following me,” Dick said.


“Tim, that’s the little one, he knew me. I mean, I’ve met him before.”

Bruce blinked in surprise.

Dick suddenly looked uncomfortable. “Yeah, I mean, I don’t exactly remember very well, considering everything that happened that night. But he was there, Bruce. The night my parents died. He watched them fall.”

“That doesn’t – ” Bruce began only to be interrupted by his ward.

“He was only like three years old, but I did my quadruple somersault for him and he saw me do it again a few weeks ago – only Robin, was the one doing the flip. He knew that only three people in the world could do that move and from there it wasn’t a huge leap for him to figure out that Robin and I were the same person. And from there he determined that Bruce Wayne had to be Batman. He did this all on his own, apparently, so don’t freak out. Besides, as far as I can tell he’s not exactly a blabbermouth and he didn’t even seem happy that Jason knew, so they’re probably the only ones who – ”

That in itself was very good to know and greatly appeased a few of Batman’s more pressing concerns over the state of their secret identities. However, the information also raised far more questions than it actually answered. “Wait,” Bruce said, stopping Dick in his tracks. “What was a street child doing at a circus in the first place?”

“I – I don’t know,” the boy said. “I guess we’ll just have to ask.” He smiled cheekily up at Bruce.

The man sighed for what felt like the hundredth time that night; he could already feel the migraine that this whole mess was going to cause him. “We’ll deal with that tomorrow. For now, tell me what was Clayface up to?”

[Fill] Strays (6/?)


The next morning, Bruce entered the kitchen to the rather baffling sight of the smaller of Dick’s strays standing on a chair, quietly and efficiently frying eggs on the stove. Before Bruce could say anything, Alfred, looking as though he’d run across the entire mansion, charged into the room. The butler took in the situation and then with the unruffled efficiency that characterized everything he did, Alfred carefully turned off the stove and removed the spatula from the boy’s hands.

“Master Timothy, I appreciate the help. But if you were hungry all you had to do was ask.”

The boy blinked up at the butler in silent confusion.

“I’m not supposed to ask for things,” Tim said finally when he realized that Alfred actually wanted a response.

Alfred and Bruce frowned in unison. “Who told you that?” Bruce asked, doing his best to not let Batman slip into his voice. No sense in scaring the child.

“No one told me,” the boy said. “But it’s the most important rule. Everything costs something.”

“Is that so, Master Timothy?” Alfred asked, his face completely unreadable. “And how much exactly would it cost to ask for help with breakfast?”

The boy shrugged and looked intently down at the congealing mess in the frying pan instead of at Alfred. “They always leave,” he said softly. “When I ask for things,” he clarified after a moment. “I, I thought if I was good and didn’t bother anyone I could stay a little longer. I’m sorry. I won’t be difficult. I’ll go.”

Tim made to clamber down from the chair. Bruce was standing in front of the boy almost before he realized his body was moving. The child froze and stared blankly up at him. Bruce placed a tentative hand on the boy’s shoulder and the boy looked startled by the contact, but after a moment he leaned ever so slightly into Bruce’s touch.

“Who leaves, Tim?” Bruce asked as unthreateningly as he could.

“My parents,” the child answered simply.

Bruce grimaced. “Are your parents still alive, Tim?”

The boy cocked his head to the side. “Of course, why wouldn’t they be?”

Bruce’s expression darkened slightly despite his best efforts to maintain a neutral countenance. “Where are your parents? Why aren’t you with them?”

“They’re in Brazil on a dig,” the boy answered. “Children are too young to properly appreciate travel, so I’m supposed to stay home.”

[Fill] Strays (7/?)

“Tim, Dick said you and Jason were living in Crime Alley,” Bruce prompted. “He said you were sleeping in a box.”

“We are,” Tim replied as though this was the most normal thing in the world.

Bruce resisted the urge to growl in frustration at how difficult it was to pull answers out of the reticent child. It wouldn’t do to frighten the poor boy. “Why were you living in a box?” he asked instead.

“It’s Jason’s. He let me share it with him after he found me. He didn’t even go away afterward.”

“Jason found you,” Bruce repeated. “Where were you before that?”

Tim went quite still, his whole body tense with fear. Bruce realized then that he had asked the wrong question. He’d be lucky to get another word out of the boy now.

“Master Bruce,” Alfred cut in mildly. “I think that perhaps you should go see that young Master Jason has not gotten himself into any trouble this morning. I’ll see to it that young Master Timothy eats a hardy breakfast. Growing boys need to eat quite a bit, as I’m sure you remember. By the way, how old are you, Master Timothy?”

Bruce watched as Alfred worked his magic. Helping the boy down from the chair and over to the kitchen counter as he spoke.

“I’m Five,” Tim answered after a prolonged silence during which he watched Alfred bustle around the kitchen.

Alfred visibly paused in his routine for a moment before determinedly carrying on. Bruce could understand the older man’s surprise and barely visible concern. Tim looked far too small to be five years old. Then again, the boy also seemed far too intelligent to only be five. He thought back to the boy’s words. What were the boy’s parent’s doing in Brazil of all places? Better yet, what was a boy whose parents were on an archeological dig doing living in Crime Alley?

Before Bruce could ask any more questions, Alfred was quietly but firmly ushering him out the door. Bruce went along easily enough. He was too angry to continue speaking to the child. And Alfred was better at this sort of thing than he was anyway. If anyone could get answers from Tim, it would be the Wayne Family Butler. In the meantime, perhaps he would take Alfred’s advice and speak to Jason. He might actually be able to get a coherent story out of the older boy.

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[Fill] Strays (8/?)

So...I really hope Jason is IC. Regardless, this was really fun to write. Enjoy!


When Bruce finally tracked Jason down (which took far longer than it should have, considering how subtle the boy wasn’t), he found the boy surreptitiously lining his pockets with small, but extremely valuable trinkets in one of the more out of the way sitting rooms.

“It’s quite a gaudy little thing, isn’t it?” he said casually and enjoyed watching the clearly startled child attempt to pretend that he’d known the billionaire was there the whole time.

Bruce allowed himself a small smile and continued speaking as though the boy wasn’t trying to steal precious, if garish heirlooms. “I don’t know what my great grandmother was thinking when she bought it, but you must admit it’s unique.”

Jason scowled. “Someone should a put a fucking bell on you,” he snapped and the bauble promptly vanished from sight.

Bruce’s smile widened and became something a bit more battish. “Mm, unfortunately that would be counterproductive to certain late night activities of mine.”

The child grimaced at the reminder of just who he was daring to steal from, but held his ground. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said stubbornly.

“Of course not,” Bruce said. “And we can forget this ever happened. Just return all thirteen of those awful little trinkets.”

Jason clenched his hands into fists and shifted into something like a defensive position. “It was just the one,” he snapped. “Besides, it’s not like you need them. We do.”

“We?” Bruce asked.

“The kid and I,” Jason elaborated reluctantly. “I’ve got to take care of him. Since it’s only a matter of time before you kick us out, no matter what Robin says, I’ve got to be able to make some money.”

“So you decided to steal priceless Wayne family heirlooms,” Bruce said. “From under the nose of Batman, himself,” he added after a moment for effect.

The boy rolled his eyes. “It’s not like I’d say where I got them,” Jason snapped. “These were only plan B, anyway.”

“And plan A?” Bruce asked, curious despite himself.

Jason hesitated for a moment, but seemed to decide to go for broke now that he was caught anyway. “Well, I was gonna take the wheels off one of those sweet rides of yours. You’ve got so many no one’d even notice till we were long gone, but it’s not like I’ve got anywhere to hide something that big when you kick us out, so I figured I’d go for something more travel sized,” the boy explained with a defiant sense of pride that was strangely endearing in the way of a small, but extremely feral puppy.

Batman unwilling found himself impressed at the boy’s audacity. He bit back on a smile and attempted to look intimidating. “How…practical of you,” Bruce said. “Now, please return my property.”

The boy glowered, but eventually the billionaire got Jason to empty his pockets. He made a mental note to keep an eye on the child, though. He didn’t doubt for a moment that the boy’s sticky fingers would be back in action the moment his back was turned.

[Fill] Strays (9/?)


“How long have you been taking care of Tim?” Bruce asked as casually as he could as he frog marched the boy out of the sitting room.

Jason looked up at him suspiciously. “He’s my brother,” the boy said as if that explained everything.

It didn’t. The little street urchin was obviously lying, though he did a decent job of it. Someone who wasn’t trained to spot such things might have fallen for it. “Don’t lie to me,” Bruce said mildly. “I just want – ”

The boy tensed and tried to shrug out of Bruce’s hold on him. “Let me go you bastard,” he snarled, flailing his arms and legs. “You keep your hands off my brother, you hear me? Batman or no, you touch my brother and I’ll kill you!”

Bruce inhaled sharply at the implication in those words and tightened his hold on the boy’s shoulders.

“Jason, has anyone ever touched you inappropriately?” he asked slowly, biting back on the anger swelling in his heart. Unfortunately, righteous fury would not help him now. In fact, allowing that emotion to run rampant could easily make the situation worse.

Jason froze and then forced himself to relax. “I don’t know what that means,” he said after a moment.

“Has someone ever touched you in a way that made you uncomfortable?” Bruce elaborated.

Jason snorted. “You mean like you’re doing now?” the boy said meaningfully, with false bravado.

Bruce immediately let go of the child’s shoulders and was surprised when the boy didn’t make a run for it the second he was freed. Instead, the child was looking up at him with a considering expression on his very young face.

“…No,” Jason said, catching Bruce off guard. “But I’ve heard about Bad Touch from the others. And…well, my mom’s last boyfriend, he, um, looked at me funny sometimes when he was really trashed.”

Bruce nodded and pushed aside his anger, though once he had Jason’s last name, Batman had plans for the mother’s ex-boyfriend. There was a special corner of hell reserved for people who hurt children. And Batman liked to help them on their way there. “I’m not interested in that sort of thing,” he assured the boy. “Neither is Alfred. Though of course you have no reason to believe me.”

Jason rolled his eyes. “You’re not supposed to admit that,” the boy corrected scathingly. “You’re a terrible predator.” Jason paused and considered his statement. “Well, or maybe you’re a really good one.”

“I don’t want to hurt you or your brother,” Bruce said. Repetition might help the boy trust the people trying to help him. Probably not much, but it was worth a try.

“Yeah. Sure you don’t,” Jason said.

“Time will tell,” Bruce said mildly. “In the meantime, how long have you been taking care of Tim? You may consider him your brother now, but despite superficial similarities you are not related by blood.”

“It doesn’t matter,” Jason said.

“No. It does matter,” Bruce insisted. “Tim has a family.”

[Fill] Strays (10/?)

Jason had not expected that. “Family? What family? He was wandering around Crime Alley looking like he’d walked through a meat grinder. People don’t live through that sort of shit.”

“Language,” Bruce chided automatically. “And that’s what I wanted to find out about. What did he look like when you met him?”

“He looked stupid,” Jason said.

“Tim is hardly stupid,” Bruce said.

“He’s got a giant brain,” Jason agreed. “But he was walking around the worst part of town dressed like some kind of princeling.”

Bruce blinked. “Princeling?”

“Yeah,” Jason agreed. “The clothes he was wearing cost enough to pay bribes and keep our stomachs full for almost three weeks.”

“You sold his clothing?” Bruce asked as he tried to piece the two boys’ stories together.

“Duh. He stuck out like a sore thumb like that. Besides, he didn’t seem to care all that much. Not that the kid complains about anything. He’s weird like that. But I found him some stuff in the Salvation Army bin that fit okay-ish and fed him and he stopped looking so scary after a while.”

“What do you mean, scary?”

Jason blinked and tilted his head to the side thoughtfully. “Well, he was even paler than he usually is. And sweaty. Really sweaty, but his lips were blue like he was really cold. And, um, he seemed really confused. He got better, though.”

Bruce closed his eyes. Shock. Those were symptoms of shock. Tim had very likely been in shock. What the hell had happened to the boy before Jason found him?

“That’s good,” Bruce said. “That was very brave of you,” he added awkwardly after a few seconds.

Jason snorted. “No it wasn’t. It was a stupid thing to do. Cause I couldn’t take him home with me, which wasn’t really bad, cause I’d already mostly decided to stay clear of there. But he’s deadweight and helpless on the streets. And I gotta watch him all the time because he does stupid things if I’m not around, or even when I’m around and I gotta protect him from creepers like you.

“And yet you took him in anyway,” Bruce prompted curiously.

“Well, yeah,” Jason said. “It was stupid, but it was still right.”

Bruce’s heart melted just a little at those words. “Yes. You did the right thing, Jason.”

“I know that,” the boy snapped. “I don’t need you to tell me what to do.” But despite what he said, Jason couldn’t seem to stop himself from smiling at the praise.

“Stealing aside, clearly you don’t,” Bruce agreed peaceably.

“A guy’s gotta do what a guy’s gotta do to take care of his family,” Jason said unrepentantly.

Despite himself, Bruce found himself smiling the genuine smile that only Dick could ever coax out of him. “Yes,” Bruce said, “he does.”

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[Fill] Strays (11/?)


Bruce remembered then that they were still standing in the middle of the hallway. He considered the situation briefly before leading Jason to his personal study. Bruce sat down at the desk and gestured for Jason to sit across from him. The boy did as he was asked, but not before giving the room a once over that Batman approved of even though the boy was probably eyeing the small valuables scattered about rather than cataloguing possible exits and potential threats.

“How long ago did you meet Tim?” Bruce asked.

“A couple of weeks ago,” Jason said.

“Can you be more exact than that?” Bruce pressed.

“A little over three weeks,” Jason admitted.

Bruce nodded. “And did he know the identities of Batman and Robin before then?”

Jason said nothing.

Bruce sighed. “I’m not mad at him, Jason. I won’t hurt him, either. I just need to know.”

The boy hesitated, but finally shook his head.

That was interesting. “And when did he find out? Were you there?”

“Yeah I was there,” Jason said. “It was the scariest thing ever.”

“Was it?”

Jason nodded. “Worse than anything my Mom’s boyfriends ever did. Fucking kid. He was there one moment and the next he wasn’t anywhere. I thought for sure someone had nabbed him and raped him and slit his throat like Max said some of the crazies do to little kids. And I ran around like an idiot looking for him, and finally found him down by this shitty ass building, where that fucking plant lady and you two were having some big show down.”

Poison Ivy. Bruce remembered that fight, twenty nights previous. It had been brutal.

“The little twerp was hiding in the shadows so good I almost didn’t see him at all. I dragged him right out of there and smacked him one for scaring the crap out of me like that, but he didn’t even notice. He kept blabbering about ‘that move, he did that move,’ or something and then he said ‘Dick Grayson is Robin’. He calmed down pretty quick after that and then he panicked all over again about me hearing all that and while he was begging me not tell anyone he figured out who you were, and, um, that’s how that went down. Little shithead. Still can’t believe he ran off like that,” Jason finished with an angry grumble.

“Did either of you tell anyone about Tim’s discovery?” Bruce asked. He couldn’t let himself be sidetracked from the main point of this interview.

“The kid wouldn’t stand for it,” Jason said with a shrug. “Besides, who would believe Bruce Wayne was Batman? Get real.”

Bruce breathed a sigh of relief. The situation was contained. That was ridiculously good news.

[Fill] Strays (12/?)

“What happened last night?” Bruce asked. He wanted to hear more than Robin’s side of the story. Dick wouldn’t lie on purpose, but Bruce wouldn’t put it past his ward to twist the situation in his strays’ favor. Dick had a good heart like that, even though he was soundly benched for the next month while Bruce upped his training and drove home the lesson of why good little Robins should not go above and beyond mission parameters without Batman’s express permission. So much for a light end-of-the-night patrol.

“It wasn’t on purpose,” Jason said defensively. “I’m not stupid, even if the kid doesn’t have a bit sense in his useless ginormous brain. We were taking a shortcut around a gang fight, when he spotted Robin flying over our heads. I don’t even know how he spotted that, but being the kid, he started chasing after him. Moron. We didn’t get too far, though, before we lost him and kinda stumbled on some kinda handoff thing. At least that’s what it looked like, anyway. Guys with guns and stuff, you know?

“We woulda been dead and rotting in Gotham Bay for sure if Robin hadn’t swooped down. It was awesome. But there were way too many of them and he was having some trouble,” Jason explained while he illustrated the battle with some rather creative handgestures. “We totally shoulda made a run for it, but Robin’s important. Or that’s what the kid says, anyway. So I couldn’t just let him get shot up over a good-for-nothing like me.”

“You’re not a good-for-nothing,” Bruce said before he even registered what he was saying.

Jason looked amused. “You don’t have to lie. I know what I am. The only good thing I got going for me is the kid.” Bruce wanted to argue the point, but Jason was continuing his story and he had to let the moment pass. “Anyway, I pushed the kid out of sight and then I threw myself in there. I kicked some shins and made enough noise to give Robin the upper hand back. The kid even threw some rocks, I think, even though he shoulda kept his fucking head down like I told him to.”

“And then?”

“Robin coulda probably taken them, but one of the guys got my back pretty bad and Robin just kind of grabbed the two of us up and made a run for it since he couldn’t fly with us both. They chased us for a while, and almost caught up once. I told Robin to take the kid and go, but he wouldn’t listen and…well, we lost them eventually.

“Robin insisted on taking us home, even though I coulda gotten us there just fine. He completely flipped out when he saw where we’re staying. I don’t really know why – ”

“I suspect it may have the location,” Bruce interrupted dryly. “Or perhaps it was the fact that you were living in a box.”

“Hey!” Jason protested. “It’s a nice box. I worked my ass off to get that thing and make it all homey for the kid. It even keeps out the wind pretty good and everything.”

Bruce said nothing and the boy stuck out his tongue.

[Fill] Strays (13/?)

Anyway,” Jason drawled, “Robin flipped his shit and got Tim all worked up and then the kid let slip that he knew and the next thing I knew Dickface was dragging us back to that cave you keep in the fucking basement. That’s all – happy now?”

“Yes, thank you Jason,” Bruce said as he processed the story, committing to memory everything that was and wasn’t said. The story matched up fairly well with Robin’s, though Dick hadn’t mentioned Jason trying to use himself as bait. That was –

That wasn’t his problem, Bruce reminded himself firmly. He still had many questions about what exactly had happened to both Tim and Jason, but he had gotten far more out of the boy than he had hoped after his failed discussion with Tim. Now he needed to back off.

“Have you eaten yet?” Bruce asked.

“Not hungry,” Jason said. His stomach took that moment to growl loudly in disagreement.

Bruce smiled and got to his feet. “Of course you’re not,” he agreed. “However, I am quite famished and I’d dearly like the company on the way to kitchen, if it wouldn’t be too much trouble.”

Jason blinked and then snorted after he had processed the request. “No, it won’t be any trouble,” he said sarcastically.

“Excellent. I suspect there will be pancakes,” Bruce added as he led the boy out of the study.

At the thought of fluffy golden pancakes, Jason betrayed himself with an excited grin more befitting someone his age and hurried to catch up with Bruce.

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Strays - Author-non Note

So, the next section is still in progress and if it doesn't take too long I'll post once the formatting issue is sorted out, but in the meantime I have some questions for those interested in the story...

1. What on Earth should I do about code names?

I'm kind of set on Jason being Blue Jay or something to that effect. I also can't decide if in this verse Robin should still be hereditary and if it is, who should inherit it? Should I go for bird themes for everyone, even Cass and Steph? Should I use their typical solo names?

I'd love to hear thoughts and opinions...

2. I'm still forming ideas on how I want Cass and Steph's stories to play out, so if anyone could rec some good fics that show off their characters that would be really, really helpful. (Background details would be lovely to have as well since the sites I checked told me almost nothing...)

I also really want to thank everyone who has been reading so far. This is such a fun little story, I'm glad people are enjoying reading it as much as I am enjoying writing it.

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[Fill] Strays (14/?)

So, I was totally going to wait to post until Monday evening, but, well, it's the holiday season, isn't it? Considering all the help you guys have given me with the code-name thing, you totally deserve this. So an extra long update for you guys. Happy Chanukah and Merry Christmas to one and all!


There were indeed pancakes.

There was also an exuberant Dick, happily making up for Tim’s silence with cheerful chatter about nothing in particular. The smaller boy didn’t seem to mind. He was clearly content to look up at Dick with adoring eyes. The child was definitely a fan. He would have to be, Bruce knew, to still remember a flip Dick had done when Tim was three, two year after the fact.

Bruce glanced over his shoulder in surprise as he heard Jason snort in derision from somewhere behind him. Then he watched as the little thief stalked past him and into the room, claimed the open chair next to Tim’s and pointedly slung an arm around the boy’s shoulders, hauling the child away from Dick.

“Jason,” Tim said softly, a small smile creeping onto his face. “You didn’t leave.”

Jason rolled his eyes. “Duh, I said I wouldn’t, didn’t I, kid?”

Tim bit his lip and nodded tentatively. “I know. But…you came back.”

The pickpockets sighed and pulled Tim into a quick hug. “Yeah, I did. We’re brothers, right?”

“Yes,” Tim agreed.

“Well brothers stick together. So I’m not going anywhere, got it?”

The smaller boy just looked at him and Bruce felt a sinking sensation in his stomach as he realized that while Jason meant every word, Tim didn’t actually believe the older boy’s promise.

“He’s right, you know,” Dick said casually, earning a glare from Jason and another awed glance from the smallest of the boys.

“Of course I am,” Jason snapped. “Don’t need you or your stupid creepy Dadbat to know that.”

Dick gave the other boy a weird look but shook off the confusion with his characteristic ease. “Sure thing, Jaybird,” the acrobat said slyly. “But I bet you don’t want any yummy pan~cakes.

The street urchin spluttered. “Don’t call me that!” he insisted before the rest of Dick’s teasing caught up with him. “Hey! I do so want some.”

“Then eat up, Jaybird,” Dick teased as he pushed a plate laden with pancakes toward the younger boy. “You too, Babybird,” Dick added, pausing to ruffle Tim’s hair. “You’re too tiny. We have to fatten you up!”

“Oy! Don’t you pressure my brother, Dickface,” Jason snapped. But even as he spoke he was dragging another pancake onto Tim’s plate. Only once Tim’s plate was full did he take a rather sizable amount for himself.

Tim ducked his head shyly at all the attention the older boys were heaping on him, but despite his obvious embarrassment, Bruce could see the disbelieving happiness in the smallest boy’s eyes. It was the expression of someone who was convinced he was dreaming and was terrified of waking up.

The boy was so fragile…

[Fill] Strays (15/?)

The mystery of Tim’s circumstance tugged again at Bruce’s mind and the detective in him automatically sought out Alfred.

The butler was making another batch of perfect golden pancakes at the stove, but the man was in pure British mode: polite and industrious with a carefully blank expression held firmly in place. Alfred was working very hard to disguise whatever he was thinking or feeling, but Bruce had known the man since childhood. The complete absence of expression was always the only indicator that something was bothering the man who had raised him.

Bruce had to suppress the impulse to drag Alfred out of the room and demand answers immediately. He knew Alfred would not appreciate being pulled from his work and that such sudden behavior would probably upset the children. It would be best to avoid them making a scene as long as possible, he decided.

So he walked over to the table and sat down across from the boys and waited patiently for the newest batch of pancakes to come out of the pan. He hadn’t had any breakfast yet either, after all.

“Morning Bruce!” Dick greeted happily before turning attentively back to his strays.

“Good Morning Dick,” Bruce replied, even though he knew the boy had already stopped paying attention to him. “Enjoying breakfast, Tim?” he asked.

Tim blinked up at him from between the bickering older boys. Once again he looked completely unsure of how to respond, but he managed a shy smile and said softly, “It’s very good, sir. Thank you. I, uh, sorry...”

“You have nothing to be sorry for,” Bruce said matter-of-factly, though he wasn’t quite sure what the child was attempting to apologize for.

The boy looked like he was about to say something, but anything Tim might have said was cut off by Jason’s sudden exclamation of “Quit calling me that, you, you Bigbird! Where do you get off calling me a bird name, huh? It’s stupid. Anyway, I’d totally be something cooler, like a wolf or a lion or something. You know, something that eats birds like you instead of the other way around.”

Dick rolled his eyes. “Boring. Besides, wouldn’t you rather be underestimated, emphasis on the ‘under’? That’s how little guys like us can take out big guys like Clayface.” Dick cast a surreptitious glance at Bruce, which the billionaire gamely pretended not to notice, before continuing. “And hey, we’ve got a theme going here, Jaybird. You can’t ignore something like that.”

Jason looked deeply unimpressed. “It’s a stupid theme,” he said, stabbing his pancake with his knife like he wished it was Dick’s face.

[Fill] Strays (16/?)

Dick melodramatically clutched at his heart. “Low blow, Jaybird,” he accused with a pout, before jumped gleefully right back into the argument. “But come on! It’s not like you get to pick your own nickname. Someone’s got to give it to you or it isn’t a real nickname. That’s how nicknames work.”

“That’s stupid. And you’re stupid too, Dickface,” Jason snapped.

“I like birds,” Tim said quietly, diffusing the…conversation before it could escalate further.

“Of course you do, TimTim. You’re our adorable Babybird,” Dick cooed, pulling Tim half out of his chair and half onto Dick’s as he hugged the boy tightly. Tim squeaked and blushed.

“Dick, what are you doing?” the boy asked, but he didn't fight the hold.

“Hugging you!” the aerialist responded merrily.

Jason, for lack of a better word, pouted at this development. “You’ve corrupted him,” he accused and set about trying to free Tim from the acrobat’s clutches.

Dick grinned maniacally and held on tighter. “What, to the side of light and justice?”

“Ugh,” Jason groaned and glared at the older boy. “No, to the side of stupid – ”

“Birds are really neat, Jason,” Tim interrupted almost desperately. Then he began speaking rapidly, almost tripping over his words in his haste, all the while begging Jason to stop fighting with Dick with his eyes. “Robins are my favorite, but I also like Blue Jays. Um, you’d like those; at least I think you would. Maybe. They’re small, so they’re still easy prey, but they’re brave enough to sometimes chase away hawks and other big predators.

“And, and they’re super territorial and protective of their nests and families, but they warn all the other birds when there’s a predator coming. It makes me think of you a little, when you drove off those bullies who were a lot bigger than you and kept them away from me and those other kids, which makes Blue Jays even more awesome, doesn’t it? Oh, and they can survive just about anywhere, even if all the trees get cut down ‘cause they’re very adaptable. They’re really, really clever, too, and when people put them in cages they try to figure out how to undo the locks like a person might. And um, I guess you really didn’t want to know any of that…Sorry.” He trailed off weakly once he realized Dick and Jason were no longer arguing and were actually paying attention to him.

“Oh, no, never knew I was so clever, really,” Dick said with a smirk, shooting another poorly disguised glance at Bruce.

Jason gave the older boy a weird look. “Whatever you say Dickface.” Then to Tim he said, “Anything you want to say I want to hear, hear me? You don’t talk at all anyway, so you shouldn’t feel bad when you do. And those birds actually sound kinda badass.” Jason looked thoughtful for a moment. “But I gotta ask how’d you know all that, Babybird? Damn it, now you’ve got me doing it, Bigbird,” Jason groused.

[Fill] Strays (17/?)

Dick grinned triumphantly and Tim blushed. “I watched a documentary about it,” Tim explained after a moment’s hesitation.

“A what?” Jason asked.

“You watch those? But they’re so boring.” Dick groaned.

Tim’s face fell. “I’m sorry…” he began, but Dick was quick enough to catch the mood shift and put a stop to the rambling apology for liking documentaries that Bruce suspected was coming.

“Hey, hey, don’t be sorry Babybird,” Dick said soothingly, pulling Tim back into a proper hug. “No sorry-ness allowed here. No sir, not at all. You hear me?”

“I guess…” Tim said doubtfully, his voice quieter than ever.

“Hey, what’s a doco- docermen- uh, that thing you said,” Jason asked, surveying the scene before him with a confused expression on his face.

Dick smiled gratefully at the other boy, probably thankful for the distraction. “Well, go on,” Dick said encouragingly. “Tell him, Babybird.”

“Um, okay,” Tim said nervously. “It’s, ah, like a movie but they’re only supposed to have true things in them and they teach you really cool things like how animals hunt for food and how soldiers fought in the first century Roman Empire!”

“Uh…” Jason said, not sure how else to respond to that.

“Yeah,” Dick agreed.

And the two shared a smile for a moment before Jason realized he was smiling at the enemy, stuck out his tongue, and turned back to Tim.

“Heh. You’re such a dork, kid,” he said fondly.

“Sorry,” Tim apologized immediately.

“What? Hey, it’s not a bad thing,” Jason assured the younger boy. “Besides, you heard Dickface. No sorry allowed. Take it back.”

“But I already said it,” Tim said.

“So? Take it back,” Jason insisted.

“That’s physically impossible, Jason.” Tim pouted.

“Don’t care. Take it back or I’ll be forced to take extreme action,” Jason threatened.

“But Jason…” Tim attempted to reason with the thief child, but Jason had no interest in logic.

“That’s it!” Jason declared.

With that, Jason clambered over onto Tim’s mostly vacant seat and began tickling him. Dick caught on quickly and tightened his lose hug to hold Tim in place as both boys mercilessly sought out and attacked Tim’s weak spots until the boy was laughing like crazy and gasping for breath.

Bruce caught himself smiling at the effective use of teamwork the boys were showcasing and firmly cast the thought aside.

Meanwhile, Tim was quickly becoming overwhelmed by Dick and Jason’s tactical strike tickle attack. “Kay, o-kay,” he gasped out between helpless peals of laughter. “Not, ah, not sorry. Not, ha, sorry. Stop it, guys! Please.”

[Fill] Strays (18/?)

“Have mercy, boys,” Bruce found himself cutting in dryly. And the boys stopped their assault with identical pouts on their faces. “He’s clearly no longer sorry.”

“He’s faking,” Dick said. “I can tell. He’ll being saying sorry all over the place again soon. But don’t worry; we’ll tickle it out of him yet for sure.”

“No roughhousing at the table, young Masters,” Alfred said with mild disapproval, carrying over the last plate of pancakes and setting it before Bruce.

“Right, right. My bad.” Dick deflated slightly. “We’ll take this elsewhere, Alfred.”

The acrobat’s subdued attitude lasted all of five seconds before the boy was grinning down at his little strays. Dick scooped up a still giggling Tim up in his arms and practically skipped toward the door. Jason cursed, scrambled down from his chair and ran to catch up with the taller boy, calling angrily, “Stop carrying him, Dickface. He can walk.”

“But he’s just so cute and travel sized!” Dick exclaimed, pausing long enough to let Jason catch up. “You just wish you were big enough to do it yourself.”

Jason scowled. “Yeah, well, he’s small enough I could carry him myself if I wanted to. Give him here and I’ll prove it.”

“No, no. It’s my turn to hold him,” Dick insisted.

“I’m not that little,” Tim protested; his face scrunched adorably in frustration.

Jason and Dick shared an amused glance and then in unison chorused, “Yes you are!”

The smallest boy pouted and the boys continued squabbling as they disappeared out of sight. Bruce listened to their childish taunts and laughter until they were finally out of hearing distance too.

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[Fill] Strays (19/?)

Okay. So I take what I said about writing Jason. He is very easy to write. Alfred, on the other hand, is officially the hardest character to write in the entire world. I've stared at this part for ages and I've decided that it's going to have to be good enough, but please let me know if I've completely mangled his character.

On a happier note, Happy New Year everyone!


Once the boys were safely out of earshot, Bruce tucked away his amusement at the children’s antics and turned his attention back to the matter at hand. He couldn’t get attached to them, he reminded himself firmly. They weren’t his to keep and no playfully worded hints from Dick would change that.

“What did you find out, Alfred?” he asked seriously.

The butler smiled tightly. “You should eat your breakfast first, Master Bruce. I suspect it will get cold before we finish our discussion.”

Bruce bit back on his annoyance at being told what to do like he was still a child himself. He knew better than to be petulant in the face of Alfred’s mother-hen tendencies. Then man would have no problem withholding information for as long as he deemed necessary in order to see that his charges were properly cared for. It was an invaluable trait that was only occasionally this exasperating. But the questions were burning in his mind. He needed –

The Billionaire sighed. He considered that he might be getting a little overinvested in this case and cast Alfred a rueful smile as he pointedly put a bite of pancake in his mouth.

Alfred nodded approvingly and quietly collected the boys’ dishes. He cleaned them with his usual tidy efficiency and put them away as Bruce finished his meal.

Once he was done Bruce brought his own plate up to the sink. He washed it himself despite Alfred’s protests because he felt like it, not because he was feeling petty.

Alfred just raised a very British eyebrow at him.

Bruce suspected the man was silently laughing at him and knew that this was one area of his life in which he could never win.

He was surprisingly okay with that.

“If you’re done holding out on me, Alfred,” Bruce prompted with only half feigned petulance as he retook his seat at the kitchen table.

“I have no idea what you’re talking about, Master Bruce,” Alfred said as he sat down across from Bruce. “I am simply looking out for your wellbeing as best I can.”

Bruce chuckled; he should know better by now than to underestimate the man before him. “And I am very thankful for all that you do. Dick and I would be lost without you, you know.”

Alfred smiled. “I do what I can, sir.”

[Fill] Strays (20/?)

“I caught Jason attempting to steal one of my great grandmother’s exotic paperweights…among other things,” Bruce said casually, steering the conversation back to the question of their young guests.

“Ah,” Alfred said, immediately recognizing which piece Bruce was referring to. “Well, it was…difficult to find a…suitable place for such a…unique piece.”

Bruce smirked. “You can admit that’s it’s an ugly abomination and that you’d be glad to be rid of it Alfred, I won’t tell.”

“I think nothing of the sort Master Bruce. I’m appalled that you think otherwise,” The butler said.

Bruce bit back on an amused chuckle and frowned slightly as he remembered how that particular exchange with Jason had ended. “He seemed to be under the impression that we’d just be throwing them right back onto the street and that he’d need the money to take care of Tim…He was thinking about stealing the tires off one of the cars in the garage,” Bruce recalled and couldn’t stop himself from smiling at the memory.

“Master Jason is certainly a rare individual,” Alfred said. “Young Master Timothy seems to be of the opinion that Master Jason hung the moon in the sky.”

“Oh?” Bruce said. “I thought for sure that was what he thought of Dick.”

Alfred shook his head slightly. “Not exactly, sir. Master Jason may have hung the moon, but I believe that Master Timothy is of the opinion that Master Richard is responsible for making the sun and all of the stars in sky shine while simultaneously keeping the Earth spinning on its axis.”

“An impressive feat for a boy of ten,” Bruce noted.

“Yes, well, it seems that there hasn’t been a great deal of light in that boy’s life,” Alfred said, for the first time letting his distress appear just beneath the surface of his ever-present calm façade.

“I got that impression as well,” Bruce agreed. “But I need more than guesses to work with. Did he say anything?”

“What he did and did not say were both quite telling,” Alfred said, but did not elaborate.

Bruce waited.

After what felt like a short eternity of silence, Alfred said, “He…I learned Master Timothy’s full name.” He paused again and Bruce knew without a doubt that the man was deeply troubled by what he knew. But Bruce did not push. He knew better than that by now.

“His name is Timothy Drake,” Alfred said finally.

The Billionaire reared back in surprise. He couldn’t quite believe his ears.

“Drake? Really?” Bruce demanded. “He told you that was his name?”

Bruce’s mind raced. Drake. That couldn’t possibly be true, could it? But if it was, it would certainly explain why Tim had been in shock and the sudden fear the child has exhibited earlier that day when prompted to remember what had happened before Jason found him. It would explain the facts, but the implications…

[Fill] Strays (21/?)

“Indeed, Master Bruce,” Alfred said, that troubled look more obvious now than ever. “I was as surprised as you.”

“All reports indicated that the boy was dead,” Bruce muttered almost to himself as he considered the fragmented pieces of the puzzle before him.

“As I recall they never found the body,” Alfred reminded him.

“I know that,” Bruce snapped more harshly than he intended. Luckily Alfred simply graced him with a patient look and waited for Bruce to gather his thoughts and calm himself. “But it’s been weeks, Alfred,” he protested. “It doesn’t…” he trailed off, considering the possibilities. Almost immediately he found a plausible explanation that needed to be considered regardless of the way the thought made his stomach twist uncomfortably. “Was the boy lying about his name?” Bruce asked.

“It is a possibility, but I find it unlikely.” Alfred’s response was quick and concise. There was no doubt in his eyes.

“Oh?” Bruce was curious.

“His reactions were too… odd to be faked,” Alfred explained.

“What do you mean?” Bruce pressed.

Alfred considered the question. “He was rather matter of fact about everything up until the accident and about everything that followed it.” The disapproving look was quite strong now. “He seemed more upset about what happened to his nanny than anything else, including almost getting killed by Clayface last night. She was the one thing he refused to talk about.”

“Nanny?” Bruce asked, mentally flipping through the sparse facts he remembered about the incident. “You mean the older woman who was among the dead.”

“Yes. Apparently the boy was quite fond of her.”

“You said he wouldn’t talk about her.” It wasn’t quite an accusation, but somehow the more he learned, the less sense the story made.

“He wouldn’t. Or rather he refused to speak about what happened to her. I suspect he may have seen her body. But he had a great deal to say about the woman she had been. He said that she was very nice and read to him even though he could do it on his own and that she even hugged him sometimes, which was apparently a rare treat,” Alfred finished, not bothering to hide his indignation at the words he was reporting.

Bruce frowned at the suddenly scathing tone in Alfred’s voice. The man was rarely so blunt in his condemnation. But Tim’s strange responses to physical affection were not the mystery here. “You think he may have seen the body,” Bruce said. “That could be traumatic to a boy his age.”

“Or to a person of any age,” Alfred said astutely, his anger once more hidden from view.

“…Of course,” Bruce agreed, his mind automatically shying away from the echo of two decades old gunshots.

“And the parents?” he asked, a tinge of the Bat creeping into his voice as he struggled to control himself.

“What of them?” Alfred asked.

“What did he say about them, aside from them being in Brazil,” he elaborated, but the question was still more Bat than man.

“The boy had almost nothing to say about them,” Alfred said with a look that spoke volumes. Troubling volumes.

[Fill] Strays (22/?)

“The media is still running their pleas for any word about Tim Drake’s whereabouts on nearly every channel at least twice an hour, Alfred. I see them every time I turn on the television,” he pointed out.

“Yes sir,” Alfred agreed. “The exact same recordings they’ve been playing since the beginning.”

He frowned. This situation was far more complicated than he had initially thought. “I’m going to need to look into this. I should have paid more attention to the case from the beginning, but it seemed so straight forward. Open and shut tragedy. I should have known it would be anything but in a place like Gotham. I should have taken the matter into my own hands,” Batman growled.

“You can’t blame yourself for that, sir. There was no way to – ” Alfred attempted to protest, but he wasn’t listening. He couldn’t listen.

“He was in shock, Alfred.” Bruce, he was definitely all Bruce now, ranted. “Shock. All the signs were there. Jason was terrified for him, he wouldn’t admit it, but I could tell. I don’t know how, but Jason managed to take care of him. But what if he hadn’t? Can you imagine a boy that Tim’s age wandering around downtown Gotham in that state? Anything could have happened to him. I should have - ”

“Indeed, Master Bruce,” Alfred said. “But what’s done is done. And worrying over what-ifs will get you nowhere.” The butler paused for a moment to be sure he had Bruce’s attention. He did, though it was taking a great deal of effort for the world’s greatest detective to reign in his anger at his own negligence. “For once, sir,” Alfred said, “I fear you’re not asking the right question.”

“And what would the right question be?” Bruce asked.

“Consider, Master Bruce, that despite his youth; Master Timothy is a very intelligent child. If he wanted to go home, it would not have been beyond his abilities to accomplish that.”

Bruce reflected and knew almost immediately that Alfred was right. The boy could have found a cop or could have deciphered a map and found his way either to Drake Industries or to his own home. The child was fearless enough to chase after Robin, if the boy had been determined enough there was a high likelihood he would have been found weeks ago.

But Tim Drake hadn’t been found weeks ago. The child likely wouldn’t have been found at all if Tim and Jason hadn’t met Dick and somehow caused his ward to take leave of his senses and want to adopt them. That implied that Tim didn’t want to be found. And that had to be due to more than just the death of a beloved nanny.

“So…the question is why was the son of two of the wealthiest people in Gotham content to live in a box in one of the worst areas of Gotham with a street urchin for several weeks,” Bruce said slowly.

Alfred nodded. “Perhaps you see my point.”

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“Jason clearly has no idea who Tim is, besides considering himself Tim’s ‘brother.’ He had no idea that Tim actually had a family,” Bruce said. Then he remembered Jason’s comment about the boy looking as though he had walked through a meat grinder. “Alfred, why would he – ”

“I suspect that Master Timothy was not quite in the right frame of mind when he first encountered Master Jason. And after that…” Alfred suddenly looked quite old. “In truth, I think that the young Master stayed because Master Jason was kind to him.”

“That’s all?” Bruce asked, but it wasn’t really a question. All of the signs were starting to point in a single rather unpleasant direction.

“I would not dream of casting aspersions on strangers, sir,” Alfred said. “But when a child acts the way Master Timothy does, one must…draw certain conclusions.”

“You think they abuse him,” Bruce said flatly.

“Perhaps. What I have seen has been deeply troubling. He – ” Alfred broke off and reconsidered his words before beginning again. “No child should be so confused by the prospect of another person wanting to be in his presence for even a moderate length of time.”

Bruce frowned. That…complicated matters quite a bit. With enough money lining the right pockets, he could have Jason sent some place where the child could flourish, but it was already quite clear that Jason wasn’t going anywhere without Tim. And Tim…well, it was too soon to make assumptions, regardless of Alfred’s feelings on the matter.

He was distracted from his train of thought by Alfred getting up from the table. Bruce looked up at the man who raised him, a question in his eyes.

Alfred smiled thinly. “But of course there are still a lot of empty spaces in that narrative that need clarification. And who better to fill them than yourself? As for the other matter, I wouldn’t worry about it too much at the moment, sir. These things have a way of working themselves out.” Bruce wondered what exactly the butler meant by that, but Alfred’s mask was already firmly in place as he tutted, “Now, I have chores to do and you, I suspect, have some files to sift through. If you’ll excuse me, sir.”

And with that Alfred strode from the room, leaving Bruce alone with his thoughts.

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[Fill] Strays (24/?)

So, this took a little bit longer than I intended due to jetlag and the fact that my nephew was born this past Sunday. Due to this last development updates may be less consistent for the next few weeks.

Also, in case you haven't noticed, violenttomboy did an awesome future fic that is adorable and deserves lots of love for the awesome way she wrote Jason. (If you ever wanted to see Jason being saved from the Joker, you definitely need to read this.) Here's the link: http ://yj-anon-meme. livejournal. com/5333. html?thread=15890389#t15890389


Bruce eventually made his way down to the cave. He had work to do, as Alfred had so kindly reminded him.

He sat down in front of the batcomputer and felt half-naked as he always did when he worked in the cave in his civilian attire. He brushed aside the feeling. It would be highly impractical to get dressed in his costume only to have to take it off again when Alfred came to fetch him for dinner.

He meant to get right to work, but without his permission his hands were already accessing the mansion’s security system. In moments he had found them.

The picture was clear. Bruce always kept the security cameras in mansion up to date, even if he had yet to install microphones everywhere. He might have to reconsider that decision, he thought as he watched Dick do a backflip in the middle of the third floor hallway. The aerialist had apparently relented and put Tim down at some point, either at Jason’s insistence or so that he could properly show off for his audience. The smallest of the boys was now walking hand in hand with Jason as both trailed behind their host. Tim was obviously delighted by the show. Jason on the other hand was trying very hard not to look impressed.

Dick landed gracefully and gestured at one of the gaudier paintings that decorated the rich wood paneled walls and began talking rapidly. Bruce focused on reading Dick’s lips and had to bite down on a smile when he realized what his ward was saying.

A gift from a Russian Tsar? Sure, why not. Even Bruce couldn’t remember where his family had gotten that particular pretentious piece.

The Bat shook his head, set the cameras to track their progress through the manor and minimized the camera feed to a small corner of the screen. He probably should have closed it completely, but he felt that he should keep an eye on them. Just to make sure they stayed out of trouble.

Then he left the boys to their tour of the mansion and set himself to the task at hand.

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