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Someone That Hates To See Me Go

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"You know, you really shouldn't do that."

"Hmm?" Jason answers the tinny comment distractedly, preoccupied with shooting the kneecaps out of various gang members in the west side of Gotham. Dick's somewhere behind him--kicking ass with his escrima sticks, no doubt--and yet he somehow still manages to chatter. It's a talent of his, really.

"Just..." Dick pants, and Jason hears a sharp thunk both through the comm and several feet behind him. "Charge right out into the fray of things."

"Oh come on, circus boy. You of all people should not be lecturing me about being dramatic," Jason laughs, shooting some jerk who thought it would be funny to bring a crowbar to a gunfight. Really. When will these morons learn to respect his triggers? Haha. That's a pun.

"You could get hurt," Dick says, and Jason snorts so loudly that one of the thugs startles and backs away, running flat out in the other direction. "So could they," Jason says pointedly, shooting the guy's leg out from beneath him.

He can almost feel Dick's completely flat stare on his neck. He laughs at his pseudo-brother's irritation, whips his now-empty pistol around to clock out the last thug, who was trying to sneak away with at least ten pounds of drugs tucked into his clothing. He turns around, glances at Dick, who's retrieving one of his sticks from underneath an unconscious thug. "I'm just saying." He grunts. "You could exercise a bit more caution. I'm not always here to watch your back, you know?"

"Oh come on, Mom." Jason groans at his lame excuse for parenting. "I'm a big boy. I have my own leather jacket and everything."

"You guys are adorable." Babs sounds the complete opposite of charmed. "When you're done bantering, there's a robbery on 12th and Banks."

"On our way, beautiful," Dick says, and Jason gags.

"Screw you too, Jason," Babs says amiably, and Jason rolls his eyes. Working with them is more trouble than it's worth sometimes.

___

"Um. Hi. Can I come in?" Tim asks hesitantly, looking all of six (and not sixteen), as he stares up at Jason.

Jason groans. Tim has the biggest damn eyes he's ever seen. The puppy gene must come from his mother. Jason opens the door a bit wider and shuffles back into the living room, dropping onto the couch with a groan. His arm flops over his face, and he doesn't bother to move it.

Tim's feet make muffled little noises in the carpet, and suddenly he's somehow managed to shove Jason over enough to make room for his own stupidly scrawny butt--which, how the hell--and is leaned over Jason, his face just a few inches above his, and he's peeling Jason's eyelid back and shining a stingingly bright light directly into his eye as he babbles on so fast it makes Jason's head hurt (more). "How big was the dosage? How long ago did you take the antidote? Do you have the latest version? How's your blood pressure--or did you check it yet? I brought a fewsuppliesincaseyoudidn'thavethembecausealfredsaidhehadntbeenoverinawhileand--"

"Oh for the love of..." Jason groans. "Tim!"

Tim startles, sits bolt upright--and a year ago he would've been down the block by now, but he just pulls his hands a bit away as if he's not afraid to lose them and shoots Jason that deer-in-the-headlights look. And Jason still wonders how they got to a point where that doesn't tick him off immensely, because it sure wasn't by his approval. "I'm fine, okay? I took the antidote an hour ago, and yes I have enough of it, yes, it is the latest version, because I steal it from you guys, and really it was just a typical Tuesday night where Ivy tried to poison me while also trying to hook me up with a convict friend of hers next week. I'm fine. You all worry too much. And it makes you look constipated all the time," He tacks on because he's feeling decidedly not-mature.

Tim blinks owlishly. "Oh. Okay. Uh, thanks. I guess." He finishes lamely.

Jason snorts. Tim's brain clearly shut down somewhere around 'you worry too much' because even he wouldn't generally think that looking constipated was a compliment. Tim sits awkwardly and Jason sits could-not-care-less-and-just-wants-to-sleep-killer-plant-hangover-off-y.

"I'll go buy breakfast," Tim declares out of nowhere five minutes later, and Jason blinks out of a doze with an exasperated groan. "Screw you," he mumbles, rolling over and covering his eyes.

"I'll get extra pancakes," Tim calls cheerfully.

"I hate you." Jason says.

"And donuts."

"You're a cruel, depraved man, Timothy," Jason snarls, and he flops back onto the couch as Tim laughs.

___

"Why--do you always insist upon--getting us into these--situations--T-Hood," Damian snarls, punctuating his words with vicious kicks and punches. Jason doesn't envy the ribs of some of these goons. Doesn't mean he's all hunky-dory with the kid, though.

"Well, usually it's just me making the stupid choices," he grumbles, firing a round off, dropping the empty magazine, pistol-whipping an idiot, shoving in another clip, and continuing to fire within the space of ten seconds. "Speaking of which, where exactly is your broody-ass father, anyway?"

"With Nightwing at the docks," Damian growls, jabbing his elbow into one guy's knee and flipping him over his shoulder and into the brick wall behind him. The dude drops with a squeaky groan.

"Well, by now it's looking like their lead was a bust and all the guys are coming here," Jason grumbles, holstering his gun and resorting to his fists. He's running short on ammo, and the comms have gone offline--probably being jammed. He hears footsteps pounding all over, many by the sound of them, like when he used to listen to cockroaches crawling through the walls of his apartment, and he heaves a sigh and turns to meet them--and comes face-to-face with a fist already swinging at him. It's too late to dodge, so he rolls with the blow--his head still winds up spinning dangerously, and his helmet flies off. He himself hits the ground with a thud. Ouch, his spine.

Adrenaline spikes, his heart speeding up in his chest as the too familiar, hated feeling of being helpless and cornered returns--of grubby gloved hands grabbing fistfuls of his hair and hefting him up so he could be beaten with the crowbar again. He struggles to get his hands placed, shoves himself up quickly--

And hears Damian's voice screech "Hood!"--his voice is starting to break, and it's generally hilarious, but suddenly it's not funny--and things move too quickly to follow. Something not really that heavy but heavy enough to knock what little breath he's managed to get back out of him hits him hard, and as he falls back towards the concrete he hears the familiar crack of gunfire, and something hot sprays across the back of his head.

Damian screams.

Jason's heart feels like it's stopped, then suddenly feels like it's going to pound out of his chest. He lies on the pavement for a split second before grasping the object--Damian--and laying him down on the ground, struggling to see what's happened. There're more thugs coming, and it's impossible to know where the gunshot came from. Damian's eyes are clenched shut, there's sweat beading on his forehead, and he's tightly clutching his shoulder as blood spills from it onto the pavement.

Relief, as stupid as it is, washes through Jason--because he'd thought it was Damian's head or his lung or his neck, but it's his shoulder--which doesn't mean he'll be okay, it could still have hit a lung or his nerves or an artery--but it's not instant death so Jason will take it. As quickly as relief seems to cool him off, rage coils fiery in his stomach and pounds like a drum in his chest, and he scrambles in front of Damian and yanks his gun out, snarls at the oncoming criminals before lighting the alley up. When his gun runs out, he steals one off a criminal and keeps going.

The urge to kill is so strong, he can barely restrain himself to shooting legs, arms, occasional shoulders. The only thing that keeps him from doing it is the most ridiculous memory of Bruce's face on a rare occasion he'd stuck around the Cave recently--he seemed to light up somehow whenever he heard Jason speak, even if it was to swear or throw insults. He consoles himself with the excuse that Damian isn't dead, so he doesn't have to avenge him...but he's not sure he's really consoling himself because if Damian were dead, he's not sure Bruce would matter in this equation anymore.

Finally, finally, they're all down. Jason's panting, muscles fixed tight around the grip of the now-empty gun, blood splattered all over him. He slowly, evenly lowers the pistol, looks around and double checks to make sure everyone's staying put. Then he drops the gun and runs for Damian, skinning his knees as he drops down too quickly.

"Robin, hey." Jason cups Damian's chin with his thumb and forefinger--Damian's green eyes are glazed, dull, sluggishly slide beneath his domino mask to meet Jason's. "Hang in there for me, buddy."

His hand hovers over Damian's wound for a moment--he's so overwhelmed, he's not sure where to start. He carefully peels Damian's hand back from the wound--Damian's fingers are rigid and cold, not unlike his own a minute ago. His tiny hand is coated in varying layers of fresh and drying blood, and his normal olive skin tone is washed out and grayish. Jason tries to think about how long he was shooting the seemingly endless wave of thugs...it can't have been that long, can it? The nagging fear that his bloodlust might be the reason Damian doesn't make it has his hands faintly trembling as he scoops Damian up off the pavement carefully, cradling his head against his throat. "Can you hold on with one arm? I've gotta get out of jamming range, D. Work with me, kiddo."

Damian slowly, methodically slides his small--he's still so, so small--arm around Jason's neck, and Jason scoops up his helmet as an afterthought, firing the grapple and swinging onto a rooftop, where he breaks into a run as quickly as he dares. The downside of being a gun-expert is knowing exactly what kind of damage a gun can do, and Jason tries to concentrate on moving and not on hemorrhaging and blood loss and shock and--

Halfway through a swing, he feels Damian's arm loosening, and a string of vile curses starts up in his mind as he grabs tightly onto Damian to hold him steady and quickly gets onto the rooftop, lowering Damian onto his back and fiddling with the comm.

"Why, kid?" He growls, almost to himself. "Why the hell did you do it?"

"W's...gonna...hit your head," Damian slurs drunkenly, eyes rolling aimlessly. "F'ther...w'uld never...recover."

Jason swallows hard, his mouth suddenly dry and eyes suddenly stinging. "If you seriously think he'll recover if you die...you're nuts," he chokes, trying desperately to breathe smoothly and not let his gasps shudder. He punches at the comm button. "Damn it, come in."

"H--trying--crypt--"

"Babs?" Jason asks, a small twinge of hope in his voice. Stupid, his mind chastises him. Never get your hopes up. You know how well that goes.

But there's more static, and then Babs' voice comes through clear. "Hood, we lost contact for thirty minutes. Status report."

"Robin's been shot. He's lost at least a pint, maybe two. I need evac yesterday," Jason snaps, knowing he can't keep the desperation out of his voice. He hates it.

A buzz--and Jason mentally swears that if they fizzled out again he'll break the case or something. But Babs says "Copy that. Black Bat and Batgirl are en-route, eta two minutes."

"Thank God," Jason says honestly. "Hear that, D? Steph'll be so happy you've ruined your tin man reputation."

"Tt." It's more of a gurgle, but Damian somehow looks haughty even while semiconscious. "I didn't...entirely do it for Father."

Jason presses his lips together tightly and squeezes one of Damian's frigid hands in his own. Damian squeezes back faintly.

___

"You left your flank wide open," Bruce grumbles, and Jason freezes half-way to the showers.

"Good morning to you too, Rainbow Dash. Still a stalky, neurotic asshole, I see."

"Hnnn." Bruce grunts, sounding almost like he's agreeing. Jason waits for a moment, but Bruce doesn't speak again, just clicks away at the computer.

Jason throws his hands up and walks off to shower.

___

"You can't die. You know? Can't."

Jason cringes as he runs, Batgirl limp in his arms, her arms wrapped loosely around his shoulders. Her grasp keeps slipping.

"You...you keep me going, sometimes. Lot of the time. Re-remind me," Steph slurs, and Jason tries to ignore her even though he's hanging on every damn word. She's not making sense, but in a way she is, and talking means she's conscious and conscious means she's not dead.

"I want to give up and tell Bruce he can go shove it, s'mtimes. Lot 'f the time." Steph gives a little shaky hum, snuggles closer. Her face is so cold against his neck that it makes him shiver.

"But...you're still here. Still fighting, 'ven though he dumped you. Told....told you you weren't good enough." Her voice keeps getting fainter, and Jason's interior has become a long list of curses, some of which he didn't remember knowing. "You are, though. Good. You...you help people. They love you. And...B does too, you know?" She sounds breathless, and sad. "He never did me."

Jason swallows a sob. "You're kidding yourself, Blondie," he chokes, lungs burning and legs aching as he runs. "He fucking sucks at showing it, but he loved all of us in his own messed up way. Still does. Will still tear himself up if you check out on us, even though he won't do something sane like calling you once in a blue moon." Steph laughs hoarsely in his ear, breath warm, and Jason keeps running, a familiar twinge of hope beating in his chest, too often squelched and barely there, faint but ever stronger.

"You know what keeps me going? Spite. That, and maybe Dick's stupid movie nights, and your dumb boyfriend and his ten gallons of coffee and snark, and the little brat's love of bouncy houses. Which you gave him. You keep me going, Batgirl. And you're not gonna die, either, because I need you to keep going, too." Jason looks down at the tourniquet around Steph's left thigh, at how her leg is practically shredded. Looks up, at all the glowing little lights, drawing ever closer, leading them both to safety. The front door. The window. The lamp that's always on in Tim's room at horrific hours of the morning. "So shut up and let me return the damn favor and save you."

Steph's breath is quiet. "Okay," she whispers, lays her head against his neck, and stops talking. But she keeps on breathing, and Jason cries under his hood because she's a damn revelation and they all know it. And she'll live. She'll always, always live.

 

___

 

"Bloody imbeciles, every last one of you. No sense of self-preservation whatsoever."

Jason cringes and tries to lie completely still. Despite the cursing, Alfred's hands are steady and as gentle as is possible as he stitches up the side of Jason's neck. Jason's still honestly not sure how it happened; his best guess is that he'd had his head turned and someone had managed to get him in the slight gap between his helmet and the collar of his jacket. It hadn't hit his jugular, thank God, but it had been bleeding badly...and he was willing to admit that he'd kind of freaked out and dragged himself home. It didn't hurt that he was really only a few blocks away at the time. He'd basically crawled into the Cave, and Alfred had found him when he was bringing down post-patrol refreshments for the others. Jason had never seen him drop a tray before. It was pretty cliched, but somehow it wasn't as amusing as it should have been.

"What the bloody hell were you thinking, Master Jason," Alfred is still ranting, and Jason doesn't think he's heard him curse this much...ever. "Taking on Penguin by yourself."

"I dunno, maybe that I'm an adult with more intelligence than the average third grader?" Jason mutters.

"That remains to be seen." Alfred says tightly. "You could have been killed."

Jason groans internally. Not this again. "I've had worse, Alfred!" He says in irritation before he can consider the wisdom of that response.

Alfred's hand freezes on Jason's neck, and Jason's eyes widen. Shit, abort, backspace, bad bad bad--

"Jason. Peter. Todd." Alfred says lowly, and Jason's pulse spikes in panic at the anger in his tone. He tries to glance over at Alfred; he's lying on his side, so it's a bit difficult. When he does manage to get a glimpse of Alfred's face, he flinches; he looks furious, but also hurt, and that makes Jason's heart twinge. He always, always felt the most guilty for hurting Alfred, because Alfred was probably the one in the household who loved most unconditionally. Jason swallows hard. "Sorry." He mumbles, almost inaudibly, not meeting Alfred's eyes.

There's a heavy sigh behind him, and then a gentle hand sinks into his hair, stroking the side of his head, and Jason feels grateful and guilty  that Alfred is so much better than he is and forgives so easily. He feels somehow despicable for leaning into the touch, but he can't bring himself to care enough to move away.

"I don't know if you've noticed, Master Jason, but all of us are happy you've been with us. We don't want you to be hurt...or to lose you. And certainly not because you did something as simple and stupid as charging ahead alone. You don't have to take on the entire world by yourself, you know."

Jason sighs. "I know, Alfie." He manages a weak smile and glances up. "Force of habit."

Alfred sighs, gives one last stroke and carefully pulls his hand back from Jason's hair. "I know, dear boy. All too well."

 

___

 

The explosion was really loud, and incredibly hot, and Jason thought his ears were ringing at first. He lays in the smoldering rubble, head spinning, and he can't feel any specific sources of severe pain...but also can't bring himself to move. There's a weight on his chest, holding him down, and he can barely breathe, or see. The smoke is too thick. There's a single gap in the rubble about twenty feet in front of him, through which he can see twinkling lights; stars and streetlights mixed together. It's pretty, vaguely reminds him of a Christmas tree, and he zones out looking at them for a moment.

"--ood? Hood! Say something, damn you!" Barbara. He can't remember the last time she snapped at him like that.

"Ow." Jason croaks, and Babs inhales raggedly on the other side. He can hear keys clicking.

"Hood, GCPD is en route. You need to get out of there." She's pulled behind her walls again, has reigned her panic in, is back to her businesswoman voice. Jason hates that voice.

"...What if I don't want to?" He finally says, almost to himself.

There's silence, and he knows it's the gathering storm. He expects the screams at any second. I lost my legs, and I didn't give up. You can't do this to Bruce and Dick and the others. You're such a selfish bastard, you're not allowed to give up. Weak, selfish, broken. Deserved it. Didn't deserve to come back.

"Jason." He blinks, glancing around in confusion before he realizes it's Barbara again. The politician voice is gone now. "Get up."

Jason swallows. He shifts, tries. He doesn't know what he's pinned beneath, just knows that it's heavy, so heavy, and he strains for a good two minutes before slumping back down, panting. "I can't," he whimpers.

"Yes, you can. You have to." Jason just lies there, tries to catch his breath, and Babs starts snapping at him again. "Damn it, Jason, I can't come save you! You can't do this again. I can't come save you, and neither can Bruce, so get the hell up and save yourself!"

Jason can see flames spreading, coming closer and closer. The heat is already rolling in nauseating waves.

"Don't you do this to me. Don't you dare. Don't make me have to tell them you gave up on them. Get up, damnit, get up!"

Jason rolls onto his stomach, cutting off his view of the sky. It takes some doing to maneuver his tall form in the small space, but he manages to get turned around. He lashes out with his foot and kicks a moldy wooden panel that he thinks might have been a door. It gives way beneath him. He bends aside a sheet of metal. Little by little, he kicks and punches his way out, hacking and gasping the whole way. He's pretty sure he burns through his gloves at one point. That'll probably hurt later. But after kicking and punching and thrashing his way out of the debris, he finally bursts out and crawls several feet before he scrambles up and runs as fast as he can towards the neighboring buildings...which turns out to be not very fast, as he's wheezing and feels like his lungs are being constricted. He can hear sirens getting closer. Babs has, for the last few minutes, been keeping up a murmur in his ear of kind, reassuring words. It's a bit weird for her, but Jason'll take it.

He reaches the base of a building and tries to fire his grapple to get onto the roof, but doubles over with a coughing fit before he can hit the button. He can't stop, and feels his pulse hammer against his ribs as he tries to breathe.

"Jason? Sit tight, he's almost there." Babs says out of nowhere, and even though he's somewhat occupied with suffocating Jason stiffens. Who did she call to witness his misfortune this time?

He doesn't have a chance to wonder for long, because something slams into him and before he can even consider pulling out his gun or punching, his helmet is yanked off and there's a hand cupping his head and an arm tight around his back.

"You're okay. You're okay." Dick breathes, over and over like a mantra, practically rocking Jason back and forth. The hand in his hair strokes comfortingly and Jason gets that Dick needs this and he's grateful and all but could he please stop?

Dick finally pulls back, looking him up and down as he basically holds him up. "Don't worry. I'll get you back to your safehouse, and we'll get some oxygen into you, okay?"

Jason swallows painfully. "...C've is fine."

Dick's eyes widen comically behind his mask. "...Really? You're sure?" He can't disguise the hope in his voice, and Jason rolls his eyes. "Closer," he rasps with a shrug, and Dick grins.

___

"You...didn't have to. Help."

Cass is, as usual, quiet. She's huddled under a silver comforter, only a little bit of her face showing and her ankle exposed at the foot of the bed. Jason is currently perched with her foot in his lap, as he carefully wraps it to stabilize it.

"Well, seeing as I'm the only one around, you don't have room to question my medical talents," Jason says, flippantly but bright enough to not be entirely scathing. Cass is his age, maybe a little older, and he didn't meet her until just recently, but already she's managed to secure a very strict line in Jason's head.

He has one for each of his family members, really. Dick puts up with just about anything until the other kids are involved. Alfred is similar. Damian doesn't take kindly to insults of either Dick or Bruce (or Talia, for that matter). Tim, he has no idea, and that fact kind of scares him. Cass, plainly put, has no tolerance for his shit. He's tried to get a rise out of her before--years and years and years ago--but it just doesn't happen with her. Maybe because she reads people so well, sees through them so easily. Besides, he doesn't know Cass well enough to really resent her, and she's proven herself to be a capable fighter and person. She doesn't deserve his nowadays-borderline hatred towards Bruce, whom she clearly adores--and who, Jason begrudgingly admits, clearly adores her back. Seeing them together on the rare occasions Jason happens to be around makes Jason wonder if Bruce would have been a better father had he only had daughters...(though Steph would probably disagree)...and, oddly enough, makes him long for a baby girl of his own someday. A huge joke, of course, but a surprisingly prevalent one.

Anyway, they're in his apartment because it was closer, and Jason had been kind of on automatic pilot after being waylaid by a few junkie couriers who were clearly a bit too high on their cargo. One of them had come at Jason's back with a knife, and Cass had dodged the other three to kick the knife out of his hand, only to be knocked off balance by the other thugs. For a moment she disappeared into the tangle of them, and Jason fired off a shot in the air to scare them off. A bit late, though, because Cass had a dislocated foot, various bruises and a long scratch down her cheek.  He kind of feels shitty about that, but that's why he offered her treatment and use of his bed.

He finishes wrapping her foot and carefully sets it down on a pillow. "Did you tell Bats you won't be checking in the Cave?"

Cass silently shakes her head, chewing at a hangnail and staring up at him with wide, calculating eyes.

Jason sighs. "Right. I'll go do that, then." He gets up off the bed. "You hungry?"

Cass nods, and Jason sighs again as he heads for the kitchen. He leans into the refrigerator while shoving his earpiece in with his free hand. "Hey, Oracle?"

"Yes?"

"Could you let B know that Cass is fine but won't be coming back to the Cave tonight?"

The typing on the other end pauses as Jason surveys the sad contents of his fridge. "She's with you?" Babs sounds distinctly not-surprised in a way that tells Jason that she is.

"Yep," Jason sighs. He digs into the freezer and comes up with a bag of frozen beef strips, and kicks the door shut as he grabs a pack of stale tortillas and a sealed bag of cheese.

"...I'll let him know. Have fun." Babs says, and Jason rolls his eyes as she closes the line. He stuffs the beef in the microwave to thaw, and grabs a can of vegetables. A few minutes later he has a plate full of impromptu fajitas (sort of) and wanders back into the main room. Cass is still sitting up on the bed, but is turned away from him, gazing thoughtfully at his shelf of keepsakes--his helmet, his tire, his picture of him and Bruce. He flushes, angry at himself for forgetting to hide it or move it.

"You act like...like we don't matter to you." Cass says, devoid of emotion. She glances at him, unimpressed with his attempt at a glare. She doesn't even say anything more, but with her eyes she says, You're not fooling anyone.

Jason sighs. He sets the plate down on the bed and grabs one of the fajitas off of it, taking a bite. "So I like being reminded of what I used to have occasionally." He mumbles through his mouthful, shrugging. "I'm an idiot, but you already knew that."

Cass hums, crawls over to the plate and grabs some food herself. "Not an idiot." She says. "...About this, at least," she smirks, and he manages a half-hearted grin back.

"He does the same thing, you know." Cass says after a quiet moment. Jason glances up, confused. "Hmmm?"

"Acts like he...doesn't care. Because he's afraid to."

Jason swallows, mouth dry.

"He is an idiot, too." Cass says thoughtfully, licking a bit of sauce off of her finger. She waves a hand at Jason, like she's telling him to come closer. Cautiously, Jason does so, half-expecting an attack just by her ominous gesture.

Instead, Cass stretches to press a kiss to his cheek. "I love you both because you are stupid. About things that matter."

Jason blinks hard. Cass is fairly open about caring--at least to their little family group--but still. It never gets any easier for him to handle hearing people say that they love him, and he doesn't know why. Maybe he's scared that they're lying. Maybe he's more scared that they're telling the truth.

"...You're not the worst big sister a guy could have," he finally says offhandedly, and Cass grins.

 

___

So far, Jason's weekend is going decidedly not well. Seeing as he's trussed up in the middle of a warehouse full of human traffickers, hanging three feet off the ground by his arms, which have lost all feeling--his shoulders, however, are still awake, and vocally protesting their wrenched position--and some idiot goon keeps beating him. With a baseball bat. Which he's both grateful for and not, because on the one hand it's not a crowbar, but on the other hand it still doesn't feel very pleasant against his spine. Oh, and he's been auctioned off to the highest bidder among Gotham's gangs. There happen to be a lot of people who hate him around here.

Mood-wise, he's actually doing pretty okay. He's more exasperated than anything. The crooks apparently had some big plan--they were blathering on about it when they thought he was unconscious--about broadcasting him all trussed up in a warehouse through the whole city and seeing who bids the highest to get him. Apparently they're counting rival gangs, various trafficking enterprises, a few wealthy Gothamites, the Joker, and the GCPD into the equation. No mention of Batman, because he's apparently not interested.

Jason shakes his head. They don't know Bruce, and they don't know him either. Especially because they haven't been paying a lick of attention to him except to beat him on occasion. He's deduced by now that the rope he's hanging from isn't anchored in any way to keep him from swinging around, so he could conceivably swing on it if necessary--it would hurt like sweet death, but it's possible if it comes down to it. He's also paid close attention to his surroundings--it's clear this warehouse is this gang's main base, because there's all kinds of stuff lying around. Various tools, a can of gasoline on one of the tables within range, camera equipment. They stripped him of his helmet, guns, boots, and body armor when they got him, leaving him with only his domino, a nearly worn-through t-shirt, and his jeans. Which is less than pleasant, because it's already freezing outside and the warehouse is drafty. A bunch of the crooks are huddled around a fire they started in an empty drum. Also, his mouth is duct-taped shut.

They already sent the broadcast out about an hour ago, and he's heard them negotiating with someone over the phone. He hates to admit it, but a cold sweat is beginning to trickle down his back. He really hopes Oracle realized his tracker was offline or they got wind of the broadcast, and that they're on their way and have a plan. Come on, guys, he pleads silently, glancing around desperately. Prove me wrong. Please prove me wrong.

As if to answer him, there's a tiny clattering sound as something lands on the floor, and suddenly there's acrid smoke filling the warehouse. Jason's eyes water, both from the chemicals and from relief; that's part of Robin's arsenal. The thugs are in chaos, gagging and flailing around with their weapons, searching for an enemy they can barely see.

"Bring out the big stuff," someone yells, and Jason's head snaps up, and pain blazes up his neck but he pays no attention as he hears a crate being opened. He can barely see the silhouette of some idiot wielding a machine gun. And shit, that is not good--these crooks can barely see, but they don't have to see with that many rounds a minute, and the bats' armor isn't tough enough to resist that caliber. He needs to do something, and fast. He starts to swing, slowly at first, cringing at the agony blazing in his shoulders. The men don't seem to be paying attention to him, so he keeps at it. The skylight bursts open, and the whole crew (that's in Gotham at the moment) bursts in; Bruce, Dick, Tim, Damian. The grunt with the machine gun immediately starts peppering the upper catwalk with bullets, and the bats scatter to better cover. Jason finally gets enough momentum, and he lashes out with his foot on the leg that's he's fairly sure isn't broken, and kicks the gas can on the edge of one of the tables. It goes flying and lands in the fire they've got going in the drum. The previously small fire swells to easily four times its original size. The thugs scatter. Except the one with the gun, who whirls at the explosion, spraying bullets as he turns.

Jason's expecting it, but he still screams through the tape when the first bullet rips through his leg.

The scream cuts off when the fourth one tears into his chest.

He can't breathe for a long, terrifying moment, and his vision is going in and out. He feels off-kilter, and then he feels like he's falling. And then he's almost surprised when he actually hits the concrete. His shoulders are screaming in pain from the jarring that forced his arms back into a lower position. It's nothing compared to the fire pulsing through the rest of him. He thinks there are tears on his face from the pain. He might be audibly sobbing if his mouth weren't taped shut and if he weren't preoccupied with trying to breathe. His mouth is filling with blood--which is scary enough--but because of the tape, he can't cough to clear his airway. He tries to move his throbbing arms and shoulders, to bring his hands to his mouth to get the tape off, but he can't. One of his arms is broken and jarring the bone makes him stop breathing for a moment as he clenches his eyes shut and lies as still as his shaking body can manage and waits for the quickly spreading blackness to ease off. His hands are still tied; apparently whatever happened cut the rope above him.

Jason keens, clenching his eyes shut as tight as he can against the pain he's drowning in as his body spasms violently. The coppery tang of blood, the growing panic and adrenaline as his body becomes desperate for air, and the sharp, demanding, all-encompassing pain are all he can comprehend.

Dad, please. Help me, he begs deliriously in his mind.

Something suddenly touches him, grip fierce, and his body protests almost without his consent. He thrashes, tries to get away--

"Hood, it's me! Jay!" Dick. Jason slumps ever so slightly, but he's still seizing and he can't see anymore and his consciousness is quickly ebbing away. He faintly feels hands, clumsy with panic, tearing frantically at the tape. It's ripped away from his mouth, and it stings, but the pressure in his lungs that feels like it's crushing him is worse. The instant the tape is gone, his spine arches and his body heaves and he's sure blood is spraying everywhere, but he can't stop coughing and it hurts so bad. He feels hands turning him onto his side, and the pressure eases slightly and he manages to draw in a big, gasping, hoarse breath. He shudders, and finally goes boneless, all the fight leaking out of him. He's rolled back onto his back, and there's an arm beneath his neck, supporting his head. "Jay, open your eyes. Look at me, come on."

"Todd, open your eyes this instant!" Damian's normally clipped voice is shrill and choppy.

"Damnit, Jason!" There's sudden fire down his side, and he chokes. His eyes flutter open without him ordering them to. Dick's holding him up, Tim and Damian are both leaning all their meager weight on two of the holes in him. The other two, both in his abdomen, are still leaking blood at an alarming rate. His shirt is already soaked and sticking to his skin. He shivers even though he feels like he's going to melt. He leans his head back against Dick's arm. He's so dizzy.

Faintly, through his half-lidded eyes, he sees Damian whip his head around. "Father!" He shouts desperately. Jason is suddenly, dimly aware of the sounds of fists meeting flesh. They stop almost as soon as he recognizes them, and then suddenly the Bat is looming over him as if he'd teleported there. 

Some small, primal part of Jason wants to escape, crawl away, as if he's twelve again, caught in a dark alley with a tire iron in his hands. But he's too tired to run from Bruce, especially now. Especially when Bruce has this look on his face that should never be there; where he looks lost and helpless, like his world is crashing down around him. Jason opens his mouth, maybe to try to croak 'sorry,' but Bruce lifts him out of Dick's arms as gently as he can manage--even so, Jason clenches his jaw and whimpers--and immediately takes off as quickly as he can go without jostling Jason too much. He pulls Jason's head in gently, tucks it beneath his chin, cradled against his throat. He runs the gloved hand through his hair once, tenderly. "Hang on, Jay."

Oddly reassured by his father's presence, Jason leans his forehead against Bruce's neck and passes out.

He has no idea why or how, but he comes around in the car as it is doubtless speeding back to the Cave. Or not really comes around--they go over a bump or something and his injuries are very not-happy. He jerks awake, giving a choked-off scream that's more of a gurgle. Dick's face immediately cuts into his vision--his big brother's been crying, but he manages a weak attempt at a reassuring smile as he runs a hand through Jason's hair. Jason realizes that his head is resting on Dick's thigh. He also feels a tight grip on his hand, and shifts his gaze sluggishly to his left and sees Damian clutching to him, the glowing lenses of his domino mask wide. He assumes Tim is the one holding pressure on his stomach, and a hissed curse confirms his suspicion. "B, it's soaking through," Tim grits, voice tense.

Jason feels the familiar symptoms of blood loss--and after he came back he hated them even more. When your mind started to drift into nothingness but your brain pulled you back in panic and fear and vulnerability when it realized what was happening. How cold and tired you became, how all of the insecurities and uncertainties you could normally keep at bay came creeping up like hands skimming against a wall, drawing ever closer until they grabbed you by the throat. How your heart felt like it was going to explode from how fast it was going, trying to pump oxygen that wasn't there. He tries to raise his hand to wipe the blood from his earlier coughing fit off of his face--it's sticky and itchy and the smell is making him sick--but he has no power, no energy, and his hand slumps back down, hits his thigh.

He knows what dying feels like. He'd stifled a fear that it was coming--and honestly, he thinks he really must have hypochondria after his death because he's felt like he was dying before when he was barely hurt at all. But this...this is the real thing, and he knows. Mostly because he's so tired. Even though he's terrified to go to sleep, he also wants it more than anything...and he doesn't want to wake up this time.

"Jay?" Dick asks, his voice rising an octave, frantic, and he cards through Jason's bangs desperately. Jason realizes there's a fine tremor running through him, and his breathing is a quick, faint whisper that keeps tapering off.

And that's what sucks most about this: for once in his life, he's actually got some hope that things will get better if he just keeps plugging along. He doesn't deserve his family's forgiveness, and if he's honest with himself he never did. But they haven't given up on him even when he hates them for it, and they're here and they tried to save him even though he had dug his grave and deserved to lie in it.

(Ha. That's funny. No it's not.)

"S'alright," he rasps. Three heads snap up and stare at him, wide-eyed. "S'alright, guys." Jason swallows thickly, licks his lips in an effort to wet them but only winds up smearing coppery blood, closes his eyes. "You tried. S'alright."

He hears Dick's breath shudder above him, and Damian grips his hand too tightly. Jason barely feels it.

"No, it's not." Tim's voice cracks.

"I..." Jason takes as deep a breath as he can manage. It still hurts, but the pain is oddly distant. He needs to say this, though, needs to get it out there. He can't die letting them think he still hates them. "I'm sorry. I thought..." The pain flares again--his heart seems to skip three beats, it's going so fast--and his voice doesn't work for a moment. He swallows thickly, tries to stifle a shiver. "Thought hurting you would fix me, but it didn't. 'm sorry."

He chances a hazy glance around at them. Tim's shoulders are shaking. He'd apparently removed his mask at some point, because his blue eyes are visible, and tears are streaking down his cheeks. He sobs through clenched teeth, breaths harsh as he presses down even harder against Jason's side. Jason would flinch, but he can barely feel it now, and it's oddly comforting in a completely backward way. Damian's not crying--that he can tell, anyway--but his little body is tense as a wire and Jason knows he's got a deathgrip on his hand. Dick's clearly crying, but silently. Jason can feel his brother's tears hitting his face--and come on, his life really has turned into a soap opera. His hand keeps up a steady, gentle stroke against Jason's scalp, though, and it feels so good that if he closes his eyes he can almost imagine it's his mom rubbing his head before he goes to sleep.

"B?" Jason whispers. He can't see him; he's driving. The only parts of him visible from this angle are his glove-clad knuckles, clenched against the steering wheel. "Dad?" His voice breaks.

The car suddenly swerves to the side, and Dick throws an arm around Jason to keep him from sliding onto the floor. He accidentally jostles Jason's broken arm as he does so, and Jason makes an agonized sound before he can stop himself. The pain brings him back a bit, though, makes his thoughts a little clearer, makes him a little more aware.

"What the hell, Bruce!" Dick snaps, angry even though his voice still sounds watery. He holds Jason tight to his chest, protective.

"He won't make it to the Cave. We're going to Leslie's," Bruce growls, and the tremor in his voice almost makes Jason forgive him on the spot. Almost.

Bruce swings the driver's seat around so that he's facing his sons in the backseat. He reaches for Jason--but stops when Dick pulls him back, holds him away from Bruce. And Jason's touched, he really is...but he's also dying and he wants his dad. He reaches his hand out feebly, and Dick, try as he might, can't stop Bruce from clasping it tightly, as if mere pressure can keep Jason alive. Then again, maybe it can.

"Dad." Jason pleads, almost inaudibly.

"Yes, Jason?"

"...love you." Jason exhales softly. "Love all of you."

He hears Bruce's breath stutter, and it's wrong, all wrong. He tries to open his eyes, to look at him. He only manages to open them to slits--but he sees his dad, only faintly hazy. The cowl's off, and his grey eyes are wet. A rough, warm, gentle hand slides up to cup his cheek.

"I love you too, Jay." Bruce whispers, faint and shaky but sincere, so sincere. "So much."

Jason smiles--a real, bright, Robin smile that glows despite his deathly pallor and weakness. He can feel the car slowing to a stop, but it's okay now. He's said what he needs to. He finally, finally gives in and closes his eyes, lets his mind drift off into blessed, pain-free silence.

___

He wakes up all of a sudden, like he used to when he was really little, before his life started sucking, and he remembered it was his birthday...back when he still looked forward to those. He feels like he's been hit by a truck...but oddly, he kinda feels good, too. Warm and safe and tired but awake, comfortable. Kinda sore--and oddly stiff--but also floaty. The first thing he sees when he blinks his dry eyes open is a familiar plaster ceiling, cracks and stains all over it. Leslie's. He tries to swallow, but it feels difficult for some reason. He blinks. His eyes feel gross and dry, but when he tries to lift his hand to rub at them, pain shoots up his arm and he flinches, laying his limb back down carefully.

He turns his head to the side slightly--which feels less than pleasant, as there's an odd pull in his throat that throbs. Bruce is asleep in a chair next to him, his head pillowed next to Jason's arm. Jason realizes Bruce's hand is clasping his; for a long time, he cringes, if the sweat is any indication. Jason flexes his fingers as much as he can in Bruce's grasp and squeezes.

Bruce stiffens instantly, and Jason smiles fondly despite himself. He watches as Bruce lifts his head, glances at him with a strange expression that has nervousness churning in Jason's stomach. He feels like he's being scrutinized, and he squirms back slightly--

And then suddenly Bruce is on his feet and practically on top of Jason--hugging him, Jason belatedly realizes--his grip somehow managing to be tight while not hurting Jason at all, his head tucked against Jason's shoulder, and Jason is so confused. He'd like to ask Bruce what the hell he's doing, but he can't because he's having trouble speaking for whatever reason.

Bruce's hand is carding through his hair tenderly, and Jason blinks. He's still confused, but this is oddly nice, sooo. He's not quite sure how to respond.

Bruce pulls back, cradles Jason's face in his hands. "Jason," he breathes, and the single word has so much relief and emotion in it that it startles Jason. He's getting really frustrated with being unable to talk. He tries it again, but his throat is irritated and he gags a bit, which ignites a manageable but still sharp flare of pain in his chest and stomach, and he flinches.

Bruce has this anguished look on his face when Jason manages to see through the haze of tears from the pain. "Don't move too much, Jason. You have a tube in your throat."

Jason's eyes widen. He pulls at one arm--the one that hurt earlier, he thinks there must be an IV in it--then tests the other arm. His right, his broken one, is in a brace of some sort. Heedless of Bruce's warning, Jason lifts his right hand to his neck, runs his fingers down the underside of his chin--

And hits something hard and plastic in his neck only a few inches down.

He must tighten his fist around it or something, because the next thing he knows Bruce is clasping his wrist with one hand and has his chin in the other, and Jason snaps his gaze up to meet Bruce's, eyes wide.

"Jason, I need you to calm down." Bruce says, in that stupid soothing voice he always used, uses, when one of them is hurt. It used to piss Jason off so much--and it still kinda does--but he grudgingly admits that it's also effective, and his grip loosens enough that Bruce can slowly pull his hand away from the tube, lay it back down gently at his side. Bruce lays his hand on the side of Jason's head again, strokes his hair gently with his thumb. "Do you remember what happened?"

It's kinda hard to forget getting shot four times--and it looking, at least, like you were about to die in your family's arms--so yeah. Jason remembers. He nods carefully.

Bruce looks surprised. "Good. That's good. Um...we got you here within a couple minutes of you passing out. Dick, Tim, Leslie and I performed surgery as quickly as possible and managed to stop the bleeding. It...was tough, though. You crashed a few times, and when it was over..." Bruce swallows visibly. "Well...you've been in a coma for three weeks, now."

Jason barely restrains himself from gaping in shock. Three weeks? No wonder he was stiff. He can't really remember anything since the shooting, even when he tries--he thinks maybe he remembers people talking, random snippets of sounds and conversations, but he's not sure whether he was imagining or dreaming most of it. But now he's awake...and he's completely lost three weeks off his life. But hey, that's better than a few years, and he's alive, so. Win win. He glances around instinctively, looking for signs of the other Robins, but sees nothing. Which is surprising, because he would expect them to be hanging around like the overprotective idiots they were.

A faint but growing worry starts churning in his stomach. He doesn't think Bruce would be here if they weren't all fine...but he remembers with a sudden chill how Bruce greeted him with a bear hug when he woke up after the Joker tried to kill him (again), and he'd thought it was weird at the time but had been too wrung-out to care why Bruce was acting that way, and only later had he found out that Damian had died while he was out...

He realizes belatedly that the heart monitor is blaring and Bruce is trying to get his attention. The frantic tone to his voice makes Jason try to gulp in a breath around the stupid tube--which is periodically forcing him to breathe, and his throat is so dry he can hardly stand it--and finally the beeping eases off a bit. Jason turns his fingers in Bruce's palm, starts tapping out morse code. Others okay? He asks.

Bruce's brows furrow in confusion for a split second when Jason begins tapping, but then realization crosses his face. "Shit." He swears with gusto, and Jason's pretty sure his eyebrows are in his hair. "I meant to call them...Dick is going to kill me..." Bruce begins digging in his jacket pocket for his phone.

"Not to worry. I already called the Manor," a wry female voice says, and Jason feels both comforted and oddly satisfied that Bruce nearly jumps out of his skin at Leslie's sudden appearance behind him. Leslie glances at her watch. "About twenty minutes ago, as a matter of fact, when Jason first started showing signs of regaining consciousness. So they should be arriving any moment now..."

Even from here, Jason can hear a door slamming open, and feet pounding, and Alfred trying in vain to get the boys to slow down, and he braces himself. Damian swings around the corner, staggering from the sudden change in speed, and vaults onto Jason's bed. Jason gives a strangled 'oof' as Damian lands. The boy immediately leans forward and wraps his arms around Jason's neck.

"You are the most gargantuan imbecile I have ever met in the entirety of my existence. You have surpassed even Drake," the little demon says, sniffling. "And you are not allowed to permit your stupidity to invite natural selection to eliminate you from existence."

Jason blinks. He is wayyyy too tired for Damian's vocabulary right now. He manages to wrap his arms around Damian's shoulders, though, and the kid folds into his grasp until he's basically the size of a pillow. What even.

Tim and Dick skidded into the room directly after Damian, followed a bit more calmly by Cass, and Leslie chuckles and peels Damian away from Jason enough that she can begin to carefully remove the tube from Jason's throat. That action is none too pleasant, and even as Jason clenches his eyes shut and tries not to cry by reflex, the others are still talking. When he blinks his eyes back open, Damian has somehow slid down until he's basically curled into Jason's side, and now Tim is invading his personal space...very emphatically. He throws his arms around Jason's neck and buries his head against Jason's chest and mumbles tearfully, "Don't you dare ever get kidnapped again."

Jason gags. "What, I get kidnapped and it's my fault? You're such a victim blamer, Timmy." He rasps hoarsely, grinning.

But Tim tenses and his head snaps up, his cheeks flushing fiercely. "No! I didn't mean..."

Dick laughs, musses Tim's hair. "It's okay, Tim." He leans down and somehow manages to stretch his arms wide enough to encircle all of them. Circus freak. "I'm glad you're alive, Little Wing."

"Yeah," Jason croaks, glancing around at the pile he's currently trapped in. Cass smiles at him, comes closer and kisses his forehead. Jason blushes, and glances at Bruce and Alfred and Leslie beaming on the sidelines. He rests his cheek on top of Tim's head, smiling tiredly. "Me too."