Jason and Bruce are both too stubborn, but this time, it’s doing them both much more damage than they would ever have imagined. But they still deny it, fight it. Even though it’s killing them.
Dick begs them to accept it. Tim tries to convince them to see sense. Alfred expresses his disapproval through sharp little comments and stern looks. Damian tells them that they are both fools.
They ignore them still.
They suffer in silence.
Bruce has excuses. It’s only a distraction. A weakness. If he gives in to it, it will only become something that his enemies can use against him.
“Some detective you are,” Dick spits, clenching his fists. “Are you blind? This isn’t going to go away. You can just ignore it. Ignore him.”
“It’s for the best, Dick.” Bruce doesn’t even look away from what he’s working on.
“You and Jason are the biggest idiots I’ve ever met!” Dick yells over his shoulder as he walks away. He pauses at the bottom of the stairs of the Cave, and before ascending into the Manor, he says more quietly, “We lost him once, Bruce, and once was enough. Don’t drive him away again.”
Bruce keeps working.
Jason doesn’t offer any explanations, just shrugs the question off, but Tim is determined to knock some sense into him. If Jason will only listen.
“Open the door!” Tim bangs uselessly on the wood. He picked the lock easily, but Jason’s barricaded the door.
“Go away, Pretender,” Jason yells back at him. “It’s none of your fucking business!”
“Of course it’s my business,” Tim retorts. “I have to live with you two. I have to watch you try and avoid each other every day when it’s obvious you want to do the exact opposite. I’m sick of both of you being such stubborn asses.”
“Fuck off,” is Jason’s reply. “Just because you and Dickie-bird are all lovely-dovey, it doesn’t mean that that’s what’s right for me.”
“You don’t think we can’t see how much it kills you both to deny it?”
Jason’s playing with one of his guns, spinning it in his hands. It’s unloaded, of course, Bruce barely let him keep the thing in the Manor in the first place, and he definitely won’t allow him bullets. But it’s a comforting habit, and ignoring Tim is very hard when the kid is rapping insistently on his door and yelling at him through it.
Denial is a less comforting habit, he admits, though never out loud.
There’s not much else he can do. Bruce won’t give in, so neither will Jason.
It takes nearly twenty minutes of being ignored for Tim to leave, but not before shouting one last thing at his brother.
“You’re the only one that Bruce is going to listen to, Jason. Don’t let him make the same mistake as before.”
If he was trying to give advice, Jason thinks he’s pretty shit at it. Cryptic bastard.
To everyone’s surprise, it’s Damian who ends it all.
He and Jason are sparring in the Cave, and Damian is beating his brother easily. Too easily - Jason’s movements are clumsy, predicable, slow. He can barely stay on his feet.
This is why people don’t fight soulbonds.
“Stupid,” Damian spits, knocking Jason onto his back with a well-placed kick. “Can’t you see that your denial is doing nobody good?”
Jason struggles back onto his feet. “Shut up and fight me, little demon.”
Damian sneers. “Fight what? A weak, obstinate idiot who can’t even stand before me? What is the point in fighting?”
“Bruce won’t say anything, so neither will I,” Jason grunts, and lashes out at Damian again.
Blocking the blow easily, Damian says, “Then perhaps you are the more foolish one. Since you are blindly following him.”
“I’m not following anyone,” Jason snarls, trying to knock Damian off his feet, but the younger boy simply keeps evading his kicks.
“My father is simply manipulating you into doing the same as he. And you are allowing him to do so by trying to ignore your bond. He is controlling you.”
“Nobody is controlling me!”
Damian watches as Jason storms out of the Cave, upstairs, heading for Bruce’s room.
“Bruce!” Jason yells, giving the man a second’s warning before barging into his room. “Bruce, you--” But he stops short when he sees the man sitting in the chair by his desk, changing a bloodied bandage on his arm. He’s pale, sweating, shaking -- “You--you insufferable man,” Jason finishes, striding over and snatching the bandages from him.
Not exactly what he’d intended to do when he came up here.
“No. No, just--shut up.” Jason grabs the sterilized cloth from the dish on the desk and dabs at the wound. He hasn’t been this close to Bruce in days. He hasn’t touched Bruce in weeks. And it feels amazing.
Just from looking at him, Jason can tell that Bruce has been in bad a shape as he has. And he can tell from the way that Bruce has relaxed in his presence that being near each other again feels as good to Bruce as it does to Jason. They’re letting what they’ve been denying for weeks happen. And it is changing everything.
“Insufferable?” Bruce asks, amusement tinging his tone as Jason continues to work on his injury. It’s not too serious, but it’s still pretty nasty. They’ve both been less than themselves lately, and it shows.
“Yes,” Jason growls. “Completely. Insufferable.”
“I do hear you’re quite stubborn yourself.”
“Yeah, well, I never denied that.” At Bruce’s raised eyebrow, Jason shrugs. “Arguing with them doesn’t count. I’m supposed to do that.”
Bruce’s chuckle is low and smooth and god, Jason has missed that sound.
“There,” Jason says, pinning the bandage with a clip. “Done. Now--umpf!”
He’s cut off by Bruce pulling him in to kiss him deeply, and Jesus, he’s been waiting for this for so long.
When they finally part, Jason grinning uncontrollably, and Bruce whispers against his lips, “Still insufferable?”
“Maybe not so much now.”