runespoor: an extreme close-up of jason's maskless, emotionally open face. (oh jay | took me away from you)
[personal profile] runespoor
Title: Tomorrow For Today
Pairing: Bruce/Jason
Rating: NC-17
Warnings: blood, underage, descriptions of violence, character death, possible dub-con, disturbing content? (that's a very wholesome story I just wrote right there.)
Summary: emotionally crippled billionaire seeks dead sidekick to make him whole again, and succeeds. (Basically, Bruce had a convenient vial of vampire blood to inject into Jason's veins when Jason died of crowbar. It failed, until three days after the funeral Jason crawls out of the grave and stumbled to Wayne Manor.) (italics in the sentence also a quote from Zeen.)

Notes: [personal profile] moetushie requested VAMPIRES at the porn battle. I pillaged your scenario, dear. Hope you like?
Canon notes: Garzonas was the son of a diplomat who walked after raping and abusing his girlfriend, who killed herself when she learned he wasn't convicted. In a fury, Jason went to confront Garzonas, and-- the confrontation ended with Garzonas falling to his death. The question's never been answered whether Jason pushed him or, like Jason told Batman when he arrived, “I guess I spooked him. He fell.” And after that, Jason wasn't benched as Robin.

“Bruce. Bruce, what did you do?” Clark sounded stunned, almost awed. Batman didn't turn to look, even when Clark hovered close enough to send a breeze in his cape. He wouldn't detach his attention from the boy lying in bed.

Eyelashes resting against his cheeks, the fingers of one hand curled next to his head, peaceful, he looked as though he were sleeping. Nothing reminiscent of the terrible, bloody wreck Batman had pulled out of the rubble three days ago, of the wet, painful breathing wheezing through collapsed lungs, of the planes of burnt skin, the jagged, distorted angles of broken bones. Nothing but the scratches on Jason's knuckles.

Tenderly, Batman brushed them. They were fainter now than they'd been only a couple of hours ago; healing.

“Bruce,” Clark called, forceful. Reluctantly, Bruce allowed part of his attention to be diverted. Answer him, at least. So he would leave.

“Fixed it. That's what I've done.”

Jason's skin still wore scars, but only those dating back from before Ethiopia.

Watching him, here, now, it seemed Ethiopia was nothing but a bad dream. From which Bruce would've awakened, and strolled the hall to Jason's room, making sure he was safe.

It didn't quite fit, even without Clark. When Jason had returned – staggered to Wayne Manor's iron gate – and crumpled there, Bruce had put him in his own bed, in the master bedroom. So that Bruce would have no choice but watch over Jason. The way he should never have stopped.


It might've been easier if Clark had been able to settle on one opinion. If he'd been able to make up his mind between disbelief, and the faint tinge of anger that so often colored his voice when he'd attack Bruce on what he called Bruce's hypocrisy. And the-- bafflement.

Bafflement was winning.

“Bruce, you--” he broke off, at a loss for words.

“I did what I had to do,” Bruce answered, patient and imperious. He'd said these words so often, in so many situations. He almost wondered aloud why Clark would ask. He should know by now, Bruce always did what he had to do.

Clark took a breath. Audibly. “Bruce, he-- Jason was dea--”

“Yes,” Bruce cut him off. “He was.” And whose fault is that?

The accusation hung between them, unasked.

I was supposed to take care of him; I was supposed to protect him. But when I failed, who of the two of us would have been able to rescue him? Who, of the two of us, would have heard him dying? Who could have been fast enough?

“He's no longer dead, but I only hear one heartbeat in this room,” Clark said after a silence. “I hope you know what you are doing.”

A parting shot; Bruce didn't turn around to see a blur zoom out of the room, through the open window, and replied without raising his voice.

“When have you known my plans to be poorly thought-out, Superman?”


It takes until nightfall for Jason to wake up.

“Br-bruce?” He blinks, eyes clearing up, glassy dullness sharpening.

Batman takes a long, shuddering breath.


Robin was fast; Jason is faster. Tougher. Bruce wavers on the word “better”. He's not sure which would be the bigger betrayal.

When Jason turns and smiles, gleaming ivory teeth in Robin's face, Batman knows there's no betrayal here. Only Jason.

Bruce holds out four days before giving in.

Last time, he held out six months-- no. Last time, Jason was training to be Robin. Nothing comparable to this. Even if this includes dying. And returning.

Jason never stopped being Robin. Even in the meantime. Last time, though Jason was impatient, he bore it, knowing the training was necessary. He was taking a six-month shortcut on a road that Dick had walked his whole life, that Bruce had been traveling for three decades.

Now, he's been doing nothing but demanding to be able to put on the costume again. Bruce kept trying to find excuses not to, to keep Jason off the streets for a while longer. To be able to simply revel in Jason's presence, here and well. Batman yearned for a reunion with his partner.

Jason is better than he's ever been. Keeping him back makes no sense.

The streets welcome him back like the proverbial beloved son. They spread, a dark and glittering playground that Batman can hear in Robin's soft laughter, high above the city. Robin is perched on the granite parapet of the Moxon building, one foot balancing over the drop and the other under him, looking at the city. Drinking it in, like Batman is drinking Robin in.

“Fuck, I missed her,” Robin-- breathes, though he doesn't breathe any more.

Batman did, too. Missed seeing Robin in Gotham. He always belongs in Gotham, always her knight, but there are aspects of her only Robin can reveal to him. She's always bloody, and beautiful, and cruel, but only with Robin by his side can Batman truly find her fun.

He aches to have Robin by his side again, out there – down there, where Gotham isn't so beautiful, and broken needles roll in dry piss when Batman and Robin break up a gang, and slamming a skel against a streetlight will make the light flicker.

“Robin,” he says, and shoots his grapple-hook. Behind him, he can hear Robin follow a moment later.

It's possible Gotham missed Robin, too. The following nights, the job is easier on Bruce's shoulders than it feels like it's been since. Maybe since the first time Jason joined him. Better still, as Jason himself is better.

Deep within Batman's dark contentment, Bruce relaxes. He was-- isn't it stupid? He can admit to himself he was worried, now. As if this was too easy. As if he couldn't expect this sort of happiness to come by without being paid for with complications. Clark's uneasiness had left seeds of superstition after all.

They break bones and teeth and gangs, and discover that being faced with Jason's gleaming, growing fangs is as good an intimidation technique as Batman's growl.


Bruce brings up the issue of education, talks about private tutors. Jason makes a face.

“Do we have to? It's not like it matters now.”

“Jason,” Bruce chides.

“Not the way the Mission does.”

Steady, he holds Bruce's gaze, and Bruce feels his resolve weakening, his certitudes shifting. He's never wanted to encourage idleness in either Dick or Jason.

Even when he wanted Dick to take his money – that Dick wouldn't want to confounded him – he was happy that Dick went to college. It's not a question of money; the family fortune withstood the 1929 crash, and it would take much more imprudent hands than Lucius' to make a dent in it significant enough for his children's career to be a matter of necessity rather than choice. It's a question of-- work. Of ethics. Thomas Wayne was raised with very Protestant morals, and Martha, though she was neither religious nor Protestant, approved of the values.

When you come down to it, what work is more important than the Mission?

“You should expand your horizons, still. You never know when literary allusions or a solid grasp on economics are going to come in handy. If the Riddler--”

“Yeah, yeah, I know, Bruce. The Riddler, Hatter, the Penguin's associates, the drug trade – I know I need to know all that. But I don't see why we need to bring in outsiders. Why can't you teach me?”

“I...” the sentence drifts off, extinguished by Jason's eyes. Jason's straddling him. When did Jason straddle him?

“You and me, Bruce,” Jason says, caressing his hand down Bruce's cheek. “That's all we need.”

Jason's skin is warm with the warmth of the room, calluses three-month-old (-and the time since his becoming vampire, it's been three weeks) scraping against the faint stubble of late evening. Bruce had to go to the office today.

“Yes,” he agrees. Jason smiles.


The first time Batman finds Jason next to a dead body, it's a scene so familiar to Bruce's nightmares it's eerie. In a vertigo Bruce wonders if he's been thrown back in time, to the day Garzonas fell.

Then Jason moves and Bruce's vision clears. They're in a dark alley where Garzonas fell from a balcony at dawn; the... the body is splayed on the wet asphalt when then, Garzonas had been hidden from sight, dozens of grounds down. If he reached out, Batman could touch the body, when all he could catch of the falling man was his scream.

And, most important, Jason doesn't look away when Batman swoops to the ground. He's kneeling on the ground, prostrate a dozen feet from the body.

He's heard Batman; since his return, Jason's senses have improved across the board. Bruce originally wanted to make a complete study of the differences before Robin re-entered the field, but Jason convinced him it would be done just as effectively while Robin was active.

He doesn't look away, as he did when Batman faced him on the site of Garzonas' fall.

Now, his face lifts to face Batman, and his voice stretches painfully on an anguished call.


The lower half of his face is drenched in blood; the yellow blend of his cape speckled with dark drips. His gloved hands, palms up on his knees, curl when Batman approaches, useless.

“I didn't mean to,” he stammers, like a child.

It's like a string tied to Batman's chest, drawing him to the body. Checking for a pulse, a gesture he makes five, ten times a night. Holding a small mirror in front of the body's mouth, waiting for a breath. Confirming it won't come.

“Bruce, I didn't mean to!” Jason's voice rings, panicked, and Batman turns away from the cadaver, and to his-- His Robin. His Jason.

Batman takes a step towards him, or maybe another, and suddenly he has his arms full of teenage boy, clinging to him and trembling. His face burrowed against Batman's armor, gloves raking and sliding into his cape. Batman's own hands lift to embrace him, closing around his shoulders and sliding in his hair.

“I didn't mean to kill him,” Robin says, muffled. “I don't want to kill anybody.”

Batman's arms tighten around him. Trying to be comforting in a way they so rarely are, willing all the complications away, a fortress for Jason against the world.

“It'll be okay,” Batman says, low-pitched. “We'll find a way.”

Batman shushes him until Jason is no longer freaking out, shivers soothed out of his limbs. Afterwards, he maneuvers Jason to the car, gently like someone in shock. Jason tucks his face away so he won't see the dead body as they walk out of the alley; Batman strengthens his arm around Jason's shoulder to help him walk.

Bruce didn't bench Jason after Garzonas' death. It happened so long ago – in a previous life – it's no longer relevant. Bruce didn't know for sure, then. He didn't know.

There's no such uncertainty here. No comforting space for doubt.

Yet. Tragic as it was. It was an accident.

Merely an accident.

(Jason, twisted over the death of some low life drug-dealing pimp who was trying to kill him.)

Tragic. Self-defense. Tragic for making Jason tremble, for making Jason cry.

What truly matters now is finding a way to protect Jason.


Batman's never had to consider making bodies disappear as more than an academic issue.

He's disappeared other things: Bruce Wayne is rumored to have mastered the art of disappearing the neurons of the people he's speaking with, money, and ladies' underwear. Bruce can disappear people who love him, and considerations other than the Mission. Batman makes a career out of disappearing criminals' loyalties, murderers' secrets, the police's scruples, legal niceties, and civil rights.

“Bodies” were an empty threat.

Theory into practice.


Several days (two bodies) later, Jason kisses him.

They're in the Cave, after patrol. Bright-eyed, Jason was watching Bruce update the files (not with deaths, there were no deaths tonight); out of the corner of his eye Batman – Bruce; he had his cowl down, it must be Bruce – was watching Robin's bouncing feet.

He'd failed to send the boy shower, Robin rolling his eyes under the mask and reminding Bruce that he doesn't need to worry about making curfew anymore, does he? and adding that besides, watching Batman's post-patrol routine was instructive – it was part of the job, wasn't it? Batman nodded in agreement, pleased to keep Jason's company for a while longer. They worked in quiet, but not complete silence, Bruce taking Jason at his word, asking questions about the night, checking Robin's memories and his deductions.

“Don't think I don't notice it's training, by the way,” Jason signaled, jumping down the medical bed.

“The reverse would be bothersome,” Bruce replied. “Training--”

“--never ends,” Jason completed, now standing by Bruce. “Hey, I got this, okay? You don't need to tell me.”

The familiar lessons aren't the only thing he's got, though Bruce abstains from mentioning it. Jason's memory has improved significantly over-- since Ethiopia. Since Bruce gave him the blood. As far as Bruce can judge, he's developed a photographic memory.

The creatures of folklore Jason shares his current way of existence with are supposed to be in possession of an extraordinary memory as well. Not for the first time, Bruce ponders the bits of popular wisdom regarding vampires that have so far proven untrue. The alleged vampire instinct for neatness hasn't manifested in Jason – neither by the obsessive-compulsive urge to count all the grains of rice in Bruce's late-night dinner nor by the more mundane habit to fold his clothes as he takes them off. He can strew pieces of clothing or uniform all over his room – or the Cave – as unconcernedly as he ever did.

Bruce is about to remark that as long as Jason treated it as out of the ordinary, he'd be forced to remind Jason of the necessity of it, when Jason leans in, one hand on the far arm of the chair for balance, and kisses him.

It's chaste and quiet, a simple press of their lips. They still have the smell of the night clinging to them, sweat and smoke.

When Jason opens his lips to deepen the kiss, the chair screeches backwards, shying away instinctively.

Eyes open wide, Bruce and Jason stare at each other. Bruce has to slow his breathing, as though he's been sucker punched. There's a blush coloring Jason's cheeks. Neither of them looks away.

“Bruce, come on,” Jason says, very quietly.

Batman's gauntlets seize the arms of the chair.


Bruce cuts himself off, voice too weak, none of Batman's mythic command now. Licks his lips though he'd ordered himself not to. And doesn't leave.

“Are you going to say no to me?” For a second, Jason's eyes look almost sad, then he inclines his head and the impression is chased away.

His hands are clutching viciously at the arms of the chair, hard enough for something to pop. Bruce doesn't know if it's to keep himself from standing up, from throwing a punch, or from reaching for Jay, until Jason, soft and deliberate, places his hand on Bruce's, and all the tension floods away.

Bruce's mouth shapes the only word they can. “Jason.”

Helpless, his heart drumming in his ears, he watches Jason gracefully straddle him, one knee on each side of his hips. Robin's brightness is reminiscent of old myths and preternaturally young gods, and when Jason settles down on Bruce's lap, one of them smiles engagingly at him through the boy's eyes.

His hand – still locked in Batman's gauntlet – brushes against Jason's naked thigh. Jason's grin widens as Bruce stares at the filthiness of Batman's hand – he designed it as symbol of justice, menacing though it was – on the smooth skin of Robin's shaved leg.

He only tears himself away from the contemplation when Jason closes in for another kiss, one hand on Bruce's cheek to guide him, as soft as the first but wet with tongues and parted lips, and releases him.

“Jason, we can't,” he-- says? pleads? As he tries to forget that Jason's lips are shiny with his saliva. That his body is reacting to Jason above him.

Jason huffs, as if Bruce is being unreasonable, and sits back on Bruce's knees.

“That's bullshit,” he says straight out. “Bruce, you brought me back from the dead. There is nothing we can't do anymore.”

It's nothing but the truth; Bruce wants to laugh when he realizes, a feeling of dizzy elation similar to a first kiss.

He meets Jason halfway for the next.


When Bruce gives in and penetrates him, the sound that comes out of Jason's lips is an inhuman wail.

(Not every time. Just the first. In the room where Bruce's parents used to sleep, with ambient lights just dim enough that a playboy's conquest would call them romantic, and that Jason calls nightlights - “don't worry, I'll keep the nightmares away”.)


Jason always wakes up at once, now. In the first time of his... change... Bruce had watched him countless times, how his eyes would snap open as soon as the last ray of sunlight disappeared behind the horizon, awake and alert. It might be the biggest adjustment of all, where before Jason would suffer lack of sleep like any other teenager, and drag himself down to the breakfast table to whine for coffee.

Waking up is the affair of a second, silent and sudden, and Bruce wonders if Jason can hear his blood startling when Jason finally wakes up.

His body is only ever as cool or warm as room temperature, and in the darkening minutes before the sun if well and truly gone, Bruce can feel doubts growing like the evening shadows, each drawn-out moment a nightmare. Maybe Jason never returned to him. Maybe it was but the empty construction of Bruce's own sick mind, and all that happened since then dreams. Maybe, in truth, Bruce refused to abandon Jason's body under the Earth, and it's an embalmed corpse that Bruce shares his bed with.

Jason's open, awake eyes are each night a rebirth.

Assuring Jason is up is never the irritating affair it could sometimes devolve into when Jason was still alive. He gets out of bed as soon as he's awake, in a blink too short to be anything but meta. He has a better control on his speed afterwards, which is the only sign that he's not, despite all physical evidence to the contrary, at his best just out of bed.

Bruce questioned him, idly, about this new quirk; Jason only shrugged, and replied that lie-ins no longer held an interest to him.

The only exception that can bring back Jason's former habit is when Bruce is in bed by the time Jason wakes up.

Then, he does so in a manner similar to a human drifting out of sleep, body adapting in small shifts against Bruce's shape, throat working.

His mouth opens on teeth that Bruce can watch grow into fangs, and his eyelashes flutter like those of a person in REM sleep or on the verge of waking up. Snuggling, he nuzzles blindly against Bruce's throat until his mouth finds the vein.

There's only a prickle of discomfort in the first moment of the skin breaking, lost away in lazy bliss as Jason starts suckling on the tiny cut. Pleasure is edged with the sweetest pain, as Jason's tongue laps at Bruce's throat. His teeth fasten deeper as he starts drinking in, guzzling on Bruce's blood, and it's an electric sensation that goes to the tips of Bruce's fingers and has his hips jostle up in a start.

A groan tickles the back of throat, and Bruce bites his lip, clenches his jaw against the noise, desperate for this.

When a sound finally escape him, he can feel Jason's eyelids blinking drowsily, though he doesn't stop sucking. Bruce tenses, but relaxes when Jason doesn't move away.

These evenings always end the same way, with Bruce's conscience erased away in an orgasm that makes him shout.

When Bruce comes back to himself, he finds Jason smirking down at him a soft, dirty smile, his lips stained with Bruce's blood, and love such as can't be expressed by words surges through Bruce, so he tangles a hand in the back of Jason's hair, and gently tugs him down to catch his lips in a kiss that Bruce makes long and Jason makes lazy.


Most often they're face to face. The intimacy pleases Bruce, the kisses when they start, melded at the mouths as well as where Bruce is inside Jason, and the noises Jason makes that Bruce delights in – chanting Bruce's name in time with Bruce's thrusts, surprised, happy whining when Bruce slams in with enough force to bruise an ordinary human, begging peppered with curses when Bruce is in a playful mood. And, always, Jason's eager moans, tender like bruises when they're being slow, or high and loud and exhilarating.

When they start with Jason on all fours, and Bruce rims him, dipping his tongue inside the boy's body, in a short time Jason is swearing, rocking back against Bruce's face. His fists grip at the sheets in a white-knuckled clutch, and fat drops of sweat dribble down his body. Like the sweat of a normal human, it tastes like salt when Bruce licks it up Jason's arched back, tongue flattened into the furrow of Jason's spine.

The shivers breaking over Jason's skin go unheeded, until Bruce is covering Jason, pressing kisses on the back of his neck as he pushes three fingers inside the boy. Jason jolts and cries out, then rocks back into it.

He flings his arm back to loop it over Bruce's neck, the other wrapped around his own cock as they try to kiss over Jason's shoulder, can't not, and Bruce's own cock is throbbing against the small of Jason's back, his other arm enveloped around Jason to keep them both mildly upright. Their rhythm keeps getting lost, kisses and pleas cut maddeningly short in a position that is soon a hindrance.

Jason's eyes glint when Bruce finally puts him on his back, and he lifts both arms to pull Bruce down in a kiss that feels like coming home.

“Come here,” Jason says. “Get in me.”

Bruce doesn't shake as he lines with Jason's familiar body. When the head of his cock parts the tightness of Jason's flesh, Jason throws his head back, mewling.

“Ah, ah, fuck yeah...” The syllable draws out while Bruce carefully slides in, and in, bracing himself with his arms on each side of Jason's head, and watches as each moment – each inch – opens Jason's mouth further, until he's grinning, breathless, his cheeks brick-mottled and his eyes sparkling. “You feel so-- god, you feel so good,” he pants, wriggling in a way that make Bruce's muscles clench to avoid shoving in.

Petting his hair makes him squirm, and squirming makes him whimper for Bruce to move. “Fuck, fuck, do something, just—use me, please, Bruce.”

As Bruce gives him what he wants, he twists to wrap his legs around Bruce, mashing his face in the crook of Bruce's neck, licking and sucking, his moans vibrating against Bruce's skin. Bruce doesn't feel when Jason pierces the skin, lost in the sensation of their bodies fitting together like they were meant for it.

He fucks into Jason with Jason's mouth attached to his throat, rocking with the suction, mumbling love and promises while Jason drinks.

When he comes, he spills into Jason with a groan; Jason's mouth gapes wide over bloodied fangs in the caricature of a grin, and his eyes roll back, showing the milky white under the lids. Skimming against Jason's throat, Bruce's thumb picks up the vibration of a scream inaudible to human ears.


The pipe smoke reflects on Jim's glasses, the murky puffs made visible by the glare of the Batsignal. Hunched in his overcoat, a folder under his arm, Commissioner Gordon is looking over a city he has at least as much right to protect than the vigilante he's waiting for.


Batman slinks down the rooftop's railguard, standing out from the shadows. Jim doesn't jump, and he doesn't make the semi-usual comment on Batman appearing out of the dark, when they have time for friendliness, for amicable exchanges and silences.

Riffling through his mental files – no escape from Arkham, serial murderer or stirring from known organizations – Batman readies himself for urgency.

It doesn't come. Instead, Jim levels him with a thoughtful gaze.

“I need to talk to you.” His voice isn't louder than a normal conversation, his words getting lost some short feet beyond the limits of the rooftop, but it seems to resound as a roar in Batman's mind. Inwards, he steels himself. This conversation was going to take place one day or another.

Jim taps the stem of his pipe against his lip, like he always does when he's contemplating something unpleasant or spare time in a negotiation.

“It's about bodies,” Jim finally says. “Two of them.”

Something inside Bruce starts to scream. Batman waits, all impassible attention.

Holding out the manila folder toward Batman, Jim continues. “We found them four days ago. Both in the same place, the boiling room of an abandoned apartment building down the East Side.”

“Why pass the case to me now?” Bruce has reached for the folder, and flipped it open. Pieces of evidence and typed documents are held together by a paper clip, photos of the scene where the bodies were found, autopsy reports and various notes. Both bodies unidentified, one male, one female.

None of which has anything to do with the accidents.

“They were bled dry,” Jim says. He's not accusing in the least. But he doesn't take his eyes off Batman.

Neatly, Batman dislodges one of the pictures of the bodies, and studies it. The man's collarbone are dotted in burn marks.

“These don't look like cigarettes,” he says.

Jim nods, hands digging in the pockets of his coat. “Autopsy showed they were tortured. Seventy hours straight each. I'll let you read the reports for the thorough rundown.”

“Seventy hours. Any reason I'm only hearing about it now?” He can't quite keep the anger out of his voice. Unlike almost every other time, this time it's aimed at Jim, too.

“We think they're illegals.” Jim's tone says enough how much the mayor's policy of out of sight, out of mind pains and infuriates him. There's also, in the glimmer behind Jim's glasses, something that might be an apology, one that reaches deeper than the case he just handed Batman.

Bruce Wayne donated to the man's campaign. That he was at the time the better branch of the alternative only makes the reality of his politics more bitter.

“I'll look into it.”

Now would be the time to vanish once more into the shadows, but Bruce lingers a second.

“Why don't you bring the boy, one of these times.” Jim's – Comissioner Gordon's – inflexion is deceptively calm, and despite the grammar of the sentence it's not a question. Jim Gordon attended the funeral of Bruce Wayne's adopted son, once.

Wordlessly, Batman melts back into the night as if he'd never emerged from it, the GCPD folder secure in his hand.


Sunday mornings stretch out like the rays of sunlight lenghtening from the windows of Wayne Manor, blank and implacable.

There are still golf matches to be settled with similarly dilettante millionaires, or industrialists Bruce is trying to seduce to Gotham, or politicians, attorneys into the ear of whom Bruce Wayne may drop a word. There are always golf matches, or tennis, and there are always more dilettante millionaires, industrialists, and politicians, as interchangeable in their self-confidence, in the obscene blandness of their greed-is-good credo, as Bruce Wayne himself.

Among these people, Bruce can feel himself dissipate, slowly; drop by drop, his soul dripping away from him, diluting into a puddle of belly-churning mediocrity. Their eyes, their jokes, their preoccupations are meaningless, floating and fizzling away like the bubbles in their drink – champagne for them, Shirley Temples for Bruce Wayne.

In their midst Bruce Wayne becomes as perfectly hollow as Jason's sneer judged the others.

He's drowning in the sea of these people that look like him, and act like Bruce Wayne would act, if he were less ditzy and more competent. Their laughters toll around him in an echo of the Joker's.

Bruce can feel sweat gathering on his brow, his eyes jumping haphazardly from one person in the crowd to another, catching a furtive movement, a hand slipping a cigarette out of a pocket, a toss of the head, looking for Jason in every corner.

Jason is at the Manor, sleeping away the daylight hours.

Jason is dead, to all these people Bruce Wayne is supposed to make business with, dead, a corpse in the best coffin Wayne grief could buy, resting buried in a cemetery. Jason is dead, to all these laughing, talking, walking zombies, rows of uniform teeth in their uniformly white faces, rows of puppets.

Jason is dead, sometimes it's the excuse Bruce can seize to escape from his obligations. Then the attendants and maybe the tabloids nod gravely and paint him as a dignified soul in mourning, struck again by unfair tragedy.

Meanwhile Bruce is moping in the Manor, dragging his heavy body from one room to another, following the hours with the course of the sun on the wooden floors and Persian carpets.

Sundown finds Bruce staring at the horizon, forehead braced on the hand he's put on the window.

His other hand – he realizes when he pulls away from the glass – is clasping at the curtain. It's by no means exceptional that he realizes then the sleeve of the clothes he's worn all day is that of his dressing gown, and the next few minutes, the last ones before Jason is awake again, are swallowed by a frantic rush of activity, to make himself look presentable before Jason and he head out into the night.

The week, at least, provides Bruce with some activity between nights. The daze is lesser than on Sundays.

When Bruce comes down for breakfast on Monday morning, Alfred's gaze lands, purposeful, on the bite marks Bruce Wayne's dressing gown doesn't begin to hide. But he doesn't mention them, and elusive, ironic comments are something Bruce knows how to ignore.


With time, accidents grow scarce, trickling down to a slow rhythm that (if Bruce were to look back, to admit that some of his interventions must have landed thugs into an hospital, that he couldn't get all the hostages safe in time – if he looked into the death that accompanied him, on top of the one that chased him) is acceptable.

Jason is getting better – at control, at Robin, roughly speaking at everything. (When it happens, the thug dies in the ambulance; never in Jason's hands. That makes it better, too. Jason doesn't have to know. Bruce would rather not study the question of whether vampires have nightmares.)

Jason has never been better. (Things have never been better.)

And yet the fear twisting his throat is real. Whisper on the street is that the Joker's back.

Batman and Robin were together when they got the info; Robin didn't miss a cue, got into the henchman's face and threatened until the man was crying, while Batman was frozen, his fist clenched in the crook's collar.

“You're not worried about me, are you, Batman?” Robin inquired, flipping over a gargoyle, as they made their way back to the Batmobile.

Batman had cut patrol short. His gauntlets were filling with sweat, every spring Robin made mirrored by a painful flinch of his heart. He needed-- he needed to think. He needed peace.

“We're not talking about this,” Batman replied, curtly, and plunged down to the Batmobile.

“Seriously, Bruce, don't sweat it,” Jason adds, later that night, back in the Cave.

“I--” Bruce's words died in his chest.

“Look at me,” Jason said; pushing Bruce's face with his hand until Bruce had no other choice but look at him. “Stop beating yourself over it. We'll deal with him, okay?”

Jason sounded so certain. Bruce closed his eyes and leaned in a kiss. His hands slipped under Jason's shirt, roaming, and when Jason nipped his lips he leaned deeper into it. Tried to silence the disquiet in his heart, and drowned the impulse to hide Jason away in the sweet tang of Jason's mouth.

The world is on fire when they catch up with the Joker.

The scorching fumes swelling from the vats of bubbling, opalescent chemicals burn at Bruce's throat, his breather destroyed by the ricochet of a bullet. Shooting pain in his thigh, his glove comes away with blood when his hand presses against it.

“But— I killed you!”

The conflagration of a machine exploding almost drowns the Joker's cry. An acid coughing fit rips Batman's lungs, which he swallows with a hand before his mouth. His knees hit the metal walkway in a noise that he can't hear over the surrounding ruckus, vibration reverberating into his bones.

Clutching at the railway, he peers helplessly into the fumes, down at the walkway Joker and Robin are face to face. (Hostages rescued, Robin already rescued them while Bruce – no, Batman, had to be, went after Joker.)

Robin came back. (Batman didn't gave him orders not to. Robin would've returned anyway.)

And he's advancing on Joker, threatening. (Not the little pixie of a child Batman stole from Crime Alley. Batman has to blink away the superimposition, suddenly aware of Robin's relative size compared to Joker. Joker's not short, and Robin's shoulders are rounded in menace, the fumes and lightheadedness obscuring Batman's vision, and above all Robin's twice as big. Like the chassis of a powerful motorcycle. And he'll never get any bigger or taller, but he--) he's making the Joker stumble back.

I killed you!” Joker screams.

The panic in his tone would be like ambrosia to both Batman and Bruce, who've been dreaming nothing else since his tears cooled on Jason's broken corpse. It sings of vengeance, of justice purer and more final than Batman can carry out, than Bruce lets himself contemplate. It's righteous.

But it's Jason down there, Jason again, facing his murderer, Jason-- Jason who saved himself from a life of crime, whose first thought is always to the people crushed by the criminals they stop, Jason who doesn't deserve to have his hands sullied by blood.

Robin throws his shoulders back, and laughs. Echoes of it bounce to Batman's ears. “Yeah? I'm feelin' fine.”

He takes another pixie-booted step toward the Joker (how did it escape Bruce to redesign the costume, how did he not do this – bare, unprotected skin – he can still see the puzzle of torn flesh and ripped skin Jason's legs had been) and Joker, as if pushed away by some magnetic reaction, takes another one back.

“Maybe that crowbar came from a joke shop.”

Robin's grinning. It's in his stance and his voice.

The Prince Clown of Crime isn't.

“It's not funny,” Joker says.

“I dunno. I think that shit's hilarious. But you know me, I've always been more the puns type, not so much the slapstick.” Robin pauses, pensively taps his chin. “'Cept for the falling. There's just something about a guy falling down, cracks me up every time.”

Robin, Batman tries to call, but he can't push the word out. His throat is on fire, and he moves as sluggishly as if his body had been replaced with the viscous liquid down there, vision swimming.

“Say,” Jason's voice calls, bright and menacing, “you have a banana peel?”

Batman's grip on the rail slips. His hand falls on his knees, useless.

“Batman doesn't kill,” Joker says. His voice is the twin to that of the negotiator the GCPD sent to try and talk him into releasing the hostages.

“Yeah.” Robin's satisfaction pierces Batman to the soul. “He doesn't.”

He doesn't know if the shudder that just blurred the Joker's shape is the Joker's or his own.

“Batman doesn't kill!”

Another explosion fills the plant, blowing a puff of heat in Batman's face, sickly heady, but not brimstone. The blaze dwarfs Joker's protestations. In the chaos he's unleashed, he's not a force of chaos, but a reedy man whose vociferations don't matter.

Joker starts running, away from Robin (futile, Jason is faster than a human), toward the break in the walkway – the gap is nine feet long, the walkway hangs over vast vats of boiling chemicals, Batman's muscles won't obey him, his legs can't carry him.

Jason whips out a batarang, and faster than Batman's eye can follow, Joker's fallen on the metal walkway with a clang and a shout, his legs tied together. There are over six feet to spare between him and the gap.

Then he walks to the prone figure, and stands over the struggling form.

“Batman doesn't kill. Know why I didn't? You never killed Batman, I'm clearly not dead, but you still don't get it, do you, shitbrain? You can't hurt us.”


The Cave is empty when they return after taking the Joker back to Arkham, Alfred since long gone to bed. It's become a ritual, sometime since Jason became Robin, that they take care of each other's wounds. Jason would only call Alfred down for something requiring more than incidental surgery.

When Jason's finished sewing up the gash on Bruce's thigh, Bruce lets his hand run down Jason's back, grabbing Jason's ass.

Jason arches an eyebrow at him, and glances meaningfully at Bruce's thigh. “You up for that?”

Wordlessly, Bruce gives a squeeze to Jason's buttock, and sneaks his hand lower and in, until his fingertips are brushing against the place that makes Jason's breath hitch, and his hips cant subtly. “Yeah, okay,” Jason agrees, voice a little breathless though he doesn't need to breathe.

They discard Jason's shorts, and push down Bruce's boxers. Bruce is only half-hard, but that changes when he sees Jason's cock filling, and he pulls Jason over him, so Jason is straddling his thighs.

His thumbs dipping in the crooks of Jason's hipbones, Bruce watches as Jason reaches for the lube, and opens himself up, brow furrowed in concentration. When he removes his fingers, Bruce lowers him onto his cock, in one long, smooth slide that makes Jason's neck arch up. Bruce catches his breath, drinking in the sight of Jason transfixed with pleasure. His hands are curled on Bruce's stomach, but he doesn't push or scrabble for friction, staying entirely still, except for the shivers over his skin.

“Damn...” he breathes.

The tightness encasing Bruce quivers, an invitation to move. Tightening his grip on Jason's hips, he coaxes them into a slow, rotating movement.

“Fuck, fuck, Bruce...” Jason calls-- pleads. “Oh god, you're--”

“Don't move,” Bruce tells him. It's hardly necessary; Jason likes it better when he can feel Bruce using him. He likes being on his knees, and pressed against a gritty wall with the brick snagging against fabric, and the sensation of being filled, and sometimes, played with. It gives him something to push back against, and tempt. This would never be a position he'd choose.

But the sensation of being moved—manhandled, almost, that throws him off enough that he's panting. He lowers his head, cheeks flushed brick.

Bruce makes him ride him, leaning up so he can lick the sweat off Jason's chest, feel the clench of Jason's muscles around him as his angle change. The sensation of Jason's hardened cock rocking against his abs with every move they make spurs him on, racking his teeth on Jason's chest.

Jason bucks. Settling him with one hand, Bruce slips his right hand back behind, cupping down Jason's ass, and in, until his fingers nudge at his own cock pumping in and out of Jay, and the swollen ring of muscle holding him. Jason was generous with the lube; it's smeared there. With the next thrust, Bruce crooks two fingers inside him.

Writhing, Jason gasps. Between Bruce and him, his cock gives a spasm.

“God,” he moans.

His eyes are glazed over, his lips heavy with lust and parted. Ivory gleams wetly in the shadows beyond.

Bruce rolls them over, the bed barely large enough for it, Jason's shoulder twitching over nothing, and burrows himself deeper. Jason's legs scrabble to wrap around him.

“Jay,” Bruce breathes.

Eyes crinkled shut, breath stuck in his throat, Jay doesn't answer. Only the corner of his lips shivers, into the hint of a smile.

Carefully, without stopping his driving into him, Bruce removes his hand, catching a whimper from Jason. He wraps his fingers around Jason's cock, and works him, relentlessly pounding – feeling the way the interval between Jason's flexing becomes shorter and shorter, timed as Bruce's hips snap back into him– until Jason comes. The sudden clenching of Jason's muscles around his cock – Jason's teeth sinking into his shoulder – pull the orgasm out of him.

In the aftershocks of orgasm, as they lay together, casually stroking the places they'd like to revisit, Bruce's heartbeat pounds loud enough to drown the last soft panting leaving Jason's lips.


Last time the League tried to request Batman's presence, his reply was frankly annoyed. “What part of part-time member don't you understand?”

Don't call me; I'll call you.

Ordinarily, the League doesn't begrudge Batman his independence. Despite what he thinks, they are perfectly aware that he's part-time. They call him only when they need him (to be fair, they managed just fine without him every time they thought they wouldn't), and they have divergences in mood that means it's best if they don't work together too often. And Gotham needs all the attention it can get.

But it's been a long time now since Batman didn't not turn them down. Since Jason's death. Clark's been worried – about his friend, about the situation, about a great many things. He's tried talking Diana into this, on the grounds that she knows Bruce as well as he does so there's no breach of secrecy, and that with the exception of Dr Fate, she'd be in the best position to see the breaches to the laws of nature and balance Bruce committed. Instead, she refused to take sides.

“I was molded from clay, Clark, and instilled the breath of life by my sole mother,” she told him, calm-eyed. “Does that fit into the paradigm of natural order as you would have it?”

Diana was an Amazon. Magic and Greek mythology, Clark was forcibly reminded.

“It isn't the same,” he protested. “This is death we're talking about. Even Orpheus didn't get to rescue Eurydice!”

She hummed in agreement. “But Hades got to keep his Persephone half the year as his queen.”

“Persephone wasn't dead,” Clark pointed out.

She weighted him with a look he found almost pitying. “Neither is Jason. And until something happens to prove he's no better than the monsters of myth my sisters slay, I won't interfere.”

So now Clark is flying to Gotham, with enough anxiety for two. He doesn't linger over the city, which sounds no better and no worse than it always does, and heads for the Manor.

He calls Bruce to let him know he's coming, knowing how unpleasant Bruce becomes when his territory and his privacy are infringed upon without forewarning. If they are to have a talk, better to put all the chances on his side.

“In the Cave,” Batman tells him.

Clark rushes into the tunnel leading to the Batcave, and settles in his usual place, behind the seat facing the computer.

Jason is sitting on the edge of the computer close to the chair and waves a hello; Bruce swivels round to face Clark, his fingers into a steeple.

Besides Clark's, there's no heartbeat in the Cave.
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