This is the way he dies.
With mocking laughter echoing in his ear and a heavy black crowbar swinging up and down, up an down, slowly turning red with blood. With impacts that set of explosions of pain made of shattered bones and screaming agony. With a constant pair of thoughts echoing in his mind, one calling for help and the other cursing himself for his stupidity in trusting.
Trusting her. Trusting him. Trusting his skills. Trust. He had learned young that trust was stupid, life threatening, life ending. Trust got you beaten. Trust got you addicted. Trust got you raped and mocked and scolded and twisted into something other than what you'd always dreamed of being.
He shakes in a pool of blood when the explosions fade away. Everything hurts but it doesn't matter. She's still there, still alive. The freak will be back soon. He has to get away, get out, get her out even though she's not worth it. Should have known that she wasn't worth it, not that it matters whether she is or not.
All that matters is struggling to his feet and wrestling her free with fingers that barely move. There's something wet falling on his face, not blood, maybe tears. Doesn't matter because they have to get out, have to get out, have to get back to B, back home, back where he belongs except that he really never did belong there. Not like Dickie-bird, not like B. He's the transplant, awkward and wrong in the middle of those born to live there.
The sudden image of the Manor, with it's beautiful woodwork and quiet halls makes his breath catch in his throat. Home. He hadn't really thought of the place as home but it was. His home. Maybe he didn't fit, no, he knew he didn't fit, would never fit, could never fit, but it was still home, his home, the place he wanted to be as he dies and isn't that a kick and a half?
The door is locked, locked, damn it, his fingers aren't working and she's no help at all. Open, he needs to get it---
This is the way he comes back and dies again.
His eyes open onto total darkness so complete that he wonders if the fucking Joker took his eyes. He reaches up to verify and encounters hard wood padded with satin, blocking his hands from finding his face. He jerks and shudders and then gasps because holy fuck, that's a coffin, he's in a fucking coffin!
Why the hell is he in a coffin?
B wouldn't stick him in a coffin! No, this has to be the fucking Joker. It's another of his goddamn tricks. His body aches so damn bad, so bad, so it hasn't been that long. Couldn't have been that long. Sure, sure, he obviously passed out but she must have been less of a waste of flesh than he thought. She got the door open, got him away when he lost it. Yeah, so this is just the Joker playing another game. Gotta be. It can't be real. He can't have died. That's fucking insane. B wouldn't have buried him.
He searches the coffin with blind, aching fingers, not finding an air canister (not B doing some weird damn training thing then), a camera watching him (but there's gotta be one, it can't be real), or even a simple bit of metal he can use to pry his way out.
Panic starts to well up as the air in his coffin gets stale. He scrambles at the satin on the lid of his coffin, shoving and shouting and then screaming as he feels oxygen deprivation taking hold. Not enough air, there's not enough air! He's got to calm down but goddamn it, this can't be real!
He hammers at the lid of the coffin, not budging it at all. With rapidly failing strength, he slams his fist into the wood until it splits and cracks. A slight shift makes another crack, then another, allowing dirt to fall in on him in tiny sprinkles that taste of grass and worms and death. Another scream and a punch that breaks bones in his hands opens a torrent of earth that drops onto his aching chest to crush the air away. He struggles to breath, to fight, to make a bigger hole but the darkness sparkles strangely and his limbs go limp as he---
There's dirt in his mouth. In his eyes. On his chest. His throat. His arms. Something wiggles in the dirt and he jerks hard, shoving the dirt away from him, towards his feet. He has to get out. Out. Now. Out of here. This is wrong. So wrong. He shouldn't be here. Shouldn't be buried and dead and covered with dirt and worms and bugs and fuck it, this is wrong!
He claws at the ceiling, the lid, the dirt, whatever this crap is that's holding him down, keeping him here. It hurts because there are broken things in his hand, his arms, his ribs, oh fuck his ribs and back are killing him. That's a laugh because he has been killed, hasn't he? This is death. He's died. Died, been blown up, been dressed in a fucking suit and shoved in a coffin and buried like any old goddamn corpse, all because he thought that finding his mom (the bitch) was important.
Trusted her, he'd trusted her and she betrayed him, turned against him and now he's dead, no alive, but fucking hurt, God, it hurts so goddamn much. He keeps clawing, digging, kicking the dirt and clearing a hole, trying not to breath because there's so little air in this stupid fucking coffin.
It's okay though. The dirt is wet and he starts packing it, shoving it to the sides to create a hole for himself. The hole grows, gets higher, higher, fucking hell, there are roots under his fingers. He gasps fresh air for the first time in who the fuck knows how long, desperately pulling air into his lungs and hopefully sending it to his brain because goddamn, what had B said about oxygen deprivation? What did it do to you?
He can't remember. Can't remember his name. Can't remember anything much more than Bruce, B, Batman, his father, his Dad, the manor, his home, but it's all scrambled together in his brain, sort of like his body is scrambled.
He's out. Water falls from the sky, not tears, no, it's rain, Gotham's filthy rain but it's cleaner than he is so he lets it wash the dirt away. He staggers towards the road he can hear, hoping like fuck someone will stop and help him. He has to get home, back to Bruce, back to where he belongs.
A bright light blinds him for a second and then bam---
"Flatline! Get the paddles!"
"Damn, who the hell would do this to a kid?"
"Nothing, nothing, again!"
Rising clarity fades under electric sparks arcing through his body. He lets the electricity carry him away, muttering Bruce's name as voices shouted at him, asking him questions he couldn't answer anymore. Bruce. Bruce. He had to get home to his Dad. Bruce.
Electricity fades into bandages and quiet beeping occasionally marked by more shouts of 'flatline' and 'clear'. He retreats into his mind because goddamn it, where's B? Where's Bruce? He should be here by now to stop them from shocking him and hurting him and asking him stupid goddamn questions. Why isn't B here?
He feels like crying but there are pads on his eyes that soak up the tears and a tube in his throat so that he can't speak. Not that really wants to talk. These assholes don't know, can't understand, shouldn't be told who he is, what he is, how he died. And died. And died again. So many times but he keeps coming back.
When it's quiet and the people with their shouts go away, he worries about that in the back of what's left of his mind. How does he keep coming back? When people die they don't come back. Dead is fucking dead. It is. He's seen it how fucking many times? He doesn't want to think that he's special that way. He can't be special that way. B fucking hates Metas. He wouldn't be allowed to stay, to go home, to see Alfie and the Manor and B if he's different. Special.
Eventually they take the tube out, remove the bandages. The pain is mostly gone but he remembers it. Doesn't want to move until he hears someone talking about 'vegetative state', 'no possibility of recovery', and 'final arrangements.' He gets hungry and thirsty but no one comes for a day. A nurse comes and sniffles as she injects something into his veins in the dead of night. He fades away on what has to be a massive overdose designed to save him from starving to death. He opens his eyes and looks at her. Her mouth drops open and her eyes go wide but the world's already---
So many times.
The morgue is cold. He gets up off the slab, tears off the stupid 'John Doe' tag. Scrubs work as clothes. He's got to get out before they realize what he is. He stumbles into the rain that's falling outside. Still? Again? Doesn't matter. Get away.
Cold. Wet. Hungry. He finds food, sometimes garbage, sometimes real food. He finds clothes, usually trash that others have thrown out. It's been a long time but his body remembers were to go for free food, free clothes, an occasional shower that can lead to a rape but his body remembers how to fight too so it's okay.
He lets his body take care of the things like that. He comes back, takes over his body only in those moments where there's a threat to fight. Bruce. Bruce never finds him. Is he alive? Did the fucking Joker kill him too? There's no way to know since he can't stay in control of his body long enough to read the papers that he sometimes huddles under.
And he dies. Stabbed. Hit in back of the head with a board. Kicked until his ribs collapse. Starved after that because he couldn't get up for a while.
But he keeps on living, too. It's like he can't stop. Sometimes he wishes he could, hiding there in the back of his mind, safe from the horrible things that have happened to him. But most of the time he just goes on. He can't really think much anymore. His brain's fucked, so goddamn fucked. Beaten and blown up and run over and shocked and overdosed and, and, and. So many deaths. So many rebirths.
He sees the man who moves like an assassin. Sees him. Listens to his baby talk as he tries to coax him into a vehicle. When the man grabs him, tries to haul him away, he strikes. The counter-strike is fast and merciless, aimed right at his---
It's a nice cell. Comfortable. Talia's nice too. Sometimes she takes him outside, tells him about Bruce. But Ra's is there so it's not safe to come out of his safe place. By this point he's not sure that he could. It's like his brain has gotten used to hiding his mind away, safe from everything around him. By this point he can let his body deal with any attacks Ra's sends his way. He really doesn't much care if he ever gets back to normal.
Seriously, utterly and completely fucked. His body's a goddamn mess. Talia might claim that Jason's back to normal but he can tell that he's not and he never is going to be. His spine pops and jerks when he tries to move. His thigh bones don't fit properly in his hip, rubbing and aching on the right side and not quite seating right on the left. Messed up arms, messed up ribs, can't breathe right, can't move right. Hell, he can barely sit unless he hunches forward, in on himself. What's the point of trying when he's this goddamn broken?
The floor drops out from under him and something wicked and green comes up at him. He tries to process it but the glow stabs into him, ripping at his mind. It tears his body apart, reworking all the things that were broken.
His lungs seize as the ribs break and then reknit themselves, perfect as if he'd never had flail chest, twice over. His skull crackles and reforms, the brain underneath growing and growing, filled with evil green light that made his memories cascade through his mind, dragging him out of his safe place and back into his body.
He hits the bottom of the Lazarus Pit and shoves off, going back to the surface with the green light burning through him. He's alive, alive, whole, what the hell is happening? Why is he so alive when he was so damn broken?
Talia grabs him and hauls him away while Ra's' minions shout and the memories continue to cascade through his brain. She kisses him and says he is un-avenged, which fuck, why would he be? It's B. But then she shoves him off a cliff and into water that drags him away from Talia and Ra's' minions.
By the time he pulls himself out of the water he's miles away, the green light has faded into a background roar of anger and fear and loss that threatens to make him as fucking crazy as the goddamn Joker whose laugh and swinging crowbar were sure to make Jason lose control. He makes it to a town, gets himself a room and food and papers.
That showed him that Talia was right. Not that he really thought B would kill the Joker but he never thought that B would replace him. It hurts, hurts so goddamn much, way worse than all the injuries and deaths. He'd been replaced, fucking replaced.
The anger roared and took over his body the way Jason used to when he was so fucked up. It shouted about how B needed to pay for what he'd done, what he'd failed to do, for how Jason had died over and over again. People came to make him stop but Jason helped the anger kill them. Killing was easier than he'd thought, a hell of a lot more satisfying than just hitting them until they stopped fighting back.
B had to pay. The anger was right. Jason stormed out into the night. He'd find Talia, learn what he needed to be able to make him pay. No more dying, not for Jason. The Joker would die. The fucking Replacement would die. Other people would die but not Jason.
He wasn't going to die ever again.
This is the way he lives.