...have you ever burned
grief but found yourself
unable to brush
the ashes off
your skin—I know
the feeling. This familiar
for the lost. Tell me, while
the air is still loose
between our fingers, loose
necks: is the
blood on your hands
dry? Is it slowly
disappearing? Mine isn’t.
(from psalm of scattered ashes by ashley mares)
the joker is tall.
objectively, jason knows this, but there’s a difference between knowing it and craning his head at the man from the floor. he just goes up and up and up, a looming presence that ends in that gash of a smile and that glint of a crowbar. tall and large and something out of a fucking nightmare.
for a split second, jason has some sympathy for the people bruce fought, if bruce’s height seemed as menacing as the joker’s did in this moment. it is terrifying and jason shrinks back on himself involuntarily, the joker’s long form stretching out for miles and miles.
and then the crowbar comes down, too fast for all the distance it has to travel, and there is no room for any sympathy in jason’s mind anymore. there is just pain and more pain and the relentless repetition of bruce bruce save me bruce over and over again.
he can see the clock in the corner, staining everything red but that might’ve been the blood. could very well be the blood; it’s dripping down over his eyes but there’s nothing in him that can move.
the joker is still tall, his shadow splashed up the wall on the other side of the room. he’s getting ready to run because the clock is still ticking and if he doesn’t run now, he won’t be able to get away.
there’s only a few moments left for a rescue, a few breathless seconds ticking down on that burning blood-red bomb, but jason’s mouth is still wrapped around the word bruce and his mind’s still wrapped around the idea that bruce is coming.
the crowbar is abandoned on the ground by the joker’s feet. if he didn’t know better, he’d say the red tinge to the metal was blood. he knows better.
too fast, the clock counts down and suddenly there’s not enough time for a rescue, no chance. the joker slips out the door and jason slips into praying that the bat won’t come anymore.
jason is going to die.
his mom— sheila, that woman, the person who handed him over to the joker, whatever— is there too, the revolver kicked just out of reach of her body. she hasn’t moved in a long time. he hasn’t moved in a long time either, his chest barely rising with the expanse of his lungs.
it hurts. he wonders if she hurts or if she’s too far gone for that. he grits his teeth and throws out an arm, hitting her in the side. she flinches but stirs, uncurling herself from the fetal position and blinking blearily at him.
“out,” he manages to say, more of a gurgle than a word. “get out.”
she looks at him and then turns to the clock, her eyes wide. she looks weird in the light, weird through the thick blood on his face and on hers. with a growl, she rocks herself up onto her hands and knees and claws her way to the door. it opens without a hesitation, and sheila disappears into the night. safe.
jason can’t move. he should be able to get up and leave, rescue himself, but there’s nothing left in his body. if he’d been better, he could’ve done it. if he’d been better, he wouldn’t have even been in this mess.
the clock ticks again. he swears it’s gotten slower, an endless length of time stretching between seconds. he’s only got a handful of them now and they last a decade. he wonders how many times he could’ve been rescued in a decade, how many times he could’ve dragged himself across the concrete floor and collapsed outside the warehouse in a pile of dirt and blood.
if bruce comes now, he’ll die too. there’s nothing left for batman to do, no way out of this. he desperately hopes bruce doesn’t come. he desperately hopes he does.
not even superman could save him now. even if jason could get the word out, he wouldn’t hear. he wouldn’t be fast enough.
jason is going to die.
jason is going to die alone.