Slumped against a wall in an abandoned warehouse, Jason clutched a hand to his ribs and winced. His breath was coming in short bursts, and every inhale felt as though fire was burning down his left side. The words broken ribs flitted through his mind, but he quickly pushed it to the back of his mind. Broken ribs were the least of his problems at the moment. He had broken up a gang fight and was on his way back to his safehouse when something had cracked against the back of his skull. Next thing he knew, he was sitting in a dank warehouse and a high-pitched beeping filled the air. Tensing up, Jason shifted slightly and tried to push himself up off the ground in order to locate the source of the noise. Pain shot up his ribs, and he crumpled to the ground, hissing in pain.
Raising a shaking hand, he pulled the red helmet off, discarded it on the cold ground beside him and breathed in as deeply as he could, groaning as the pain burned its way through him again. Gulping in as deep a breath as he could, Jason slowly pushed himself up to his feet. By the time he was standing, the room was spinning and the corners of his vision were beginning to go black. Now that he was standing, he could begin to catalogue his more serious injuries. A knife wound to his right thigh, multiple lacerations across his torso and arms, and a potential head wound – all alongside his most likely broken ribs. He did a quick pat down to make sure he still had all his gear and – damn, whoever had brought him here had taken everything, leaving him with nothing that could be potentially helpful.
Gritting his teeth, Jason began to make his way around the room. Using the various crates position around the room, he started to shuffle towards the centre. The closer he got, the louder the beeping got. A feeling of dread filled Jason as he thought back to the last time he had found himself in a warehouse.
This is going to hurt you a lot more than it does me.
Taking a step forward, Jason span as he noticed something move in the corner. But he was alone, wasn’t he?
You’ve been a bad boy.
Jason took another step towards the source, Jason barely suppressed a flinch as the sound of a crowbar hitting flesh over and over again echoed through his mind.
My! But that was fun!
The shadow in the corner of his eye moved again, and Jason was convinced he saw a flash of bright green hair. His breathing quickened, and he hurried towards the centre of the room.
You must be punished!
Manic laughter started to filter through his memories, and Jason found himself facing the source of the incessant beeping.
Kind of messy though.
There, in the middle of the abandoned warehouse, surrounded by empty crates was a timer sitting atop a single block of C4. Jason froze, and his breathing stopped momentarily before picking up again. He was going to die, and it was going to be exactly the same way he died before. Batman wasn’t going to be able to save him. He wasn’t even on Earth, having been called away to the Watchtower for an emergency. The noises in his head became deafening, and Jason fell to his knees – hands screwed up in fists on the hard concrete.
This is going to hurt you a lot more than it does me. Hood? You’ve been a bad boy. My! Hood, do you copy? But that was fun! Dammit Hood, answer me! Where are you? You must be punished! Kind of messy though. This is going to hurt you a lot more than it does me. Hood! You’ve been a bad boy. My! But that was fun! You must be punished! Kind of messy though. Thisisgoingtohurtyoualotmorethanitdoesmeyou’vebeenabadboymybutthatwasfunyoumustbepunishedkindofmessythoughthisisgoingtohurtyoualotmorethanitdoesmeyou’vebeenabadboymybutthatwasfunyoumustbepunishedkindofmessythoughthisisgoingtohurtyoualotmorethan-
Snapping his head up, Jason looked around in a panic. Who was here with him? Whoever it was knew his identity. Looking around, Jason couldn’t see anyone in the warehouse. Was that in his head too?
Suddenly his comms crackled back to life, and Oracle’s voice filtered through into his ear, “Jason! Answer me, goddammit!” He groaned slightly and heard Oracle’s sharp intake of breath down the line. “Jason?”
Taking in a few steadying breaths, Jason forced himself back to his feet again before he replied: “I’m here, O. What d’ya need?”
There were a few moments of silence before she began to speak again. “Hood, we received information that you had been taken to an unknown location. Our trackers currently place you in the middle of the industrial district. Nightwing is on his way to your location as we speak.”
Panic flooded through Jason as his eyes flicked up to the timer connected to the bomb. Three and a half minutes. If Dick was close enough to the warehouse, the blast would injure him, and possibly kill him. He couldn’t let that happen. He became aware that his breathing had picked up again, and Oracle was desperately trying to get his attention. Taking in shuddering breaths, he stood up straight and walked towards the timer.
“I’m going to be honest with you, O. I’m not doing too well.” Kneeling in front of the bomb, he began to examine it. “I’m trapped in a warehouse with a block of C4 and a timer that’s going to be reaching zero in a few minutes. It’s a pretty damn crude bomb if I’m honest. The last time I was in this position, I had been beaten half to death by the Joker.” He drew in a painful breath and faltered, images of the crowbar raining down on him flashing through his mind. His ribs throbbed and his wounds bled sluggishly. Pain and exhaustion radiated through his body, and his hands began to shake. Flicking his eyes to the timer, he felt his breath catch in his throat. Two minutes.
A choked-off sob reached his ears, and Barbara’s voice came through the comms, far softer than when she was being Oracle. “Jason,” she sniffled, “Please tell me that you can get out. Please. We can’t go through losing you all over again.”
Screwing his eyes shut, Jason became aware of the wetness that was beginning to form. “No can do, BG. Whoever dumped me here took my gear – I have no grapple or gun. I’m injured and don’t have the strength to pull myself up to a window. I guess this is as good a time as any to say goodbye?” Another choked-off sob reached his ears, and he drew in a shaky breath as he started to look for the trigger or blasting caps.
Barbara was openly sobbing now, furiously typing away. “You can’t die. You can’t. We just got you back, dammit.” It sounded as though she’d slammed her hands on the keyboard, and took in a harsh breath before mumbling “It’s not fair. You don’t deserve this.”
“It’s okay. I’m used to it.” A sob escaped him and he ran his finger over the blasting cap. One and a half minutes. “Death isn’t as bad as I made it out to be. It’s just darkness, after all. Some pain, but the nothing but blackness and coldness.”
The sound of typing in his ear picked up again, and Jason doubled down on his efforts to defuse the bomb. “Dick is just around the corner, Jason. He’s nearly there. Just hold on, please.”
Jason gripped the blasting cap in his fingers and eyed the timer. One minute. A crackle in his ear indicated that someone else had been patched into the channel, and suddenly Dick was speaking in a rush down his ear. “Jason? Little Wing? Babs caught me up on what’s happened. I’m thirty seconds away, tops. I promise that I’ll be there for you.” Jason could tell that his older brother was crying, his voice stiff and croaky.
Closing his eyes, he tightened his hold on the blasting cap. Whispering a quiet “I’m sorry Dick,” he gently pulling the blasting cap out of the block of C4 before tensing up, preparing himself for the explosion.
A few seconds passed, and nothing happened. Opening his eyes cautiously, Jason stared at the timer. It was still counting down. Swearing loudly, Jason threw the blasting cap onto the floor and pulled his knees to his chest. Sobs threatened to escape, and he did nothing to stifle them. Jason wasn’t ready to die, not so soon after he had reconciled with his family. It wasn’t fair! He didn’t deserve to die, not this time!
He heard someone call his name before a body barrelled into him. Grunting in pain, Jason lifted his head up and gazed at the other person. Tearful blue eyes gazed down sadly at him, and Jason only just had time to register the fact that his brother was here with him before he was being pulled into a tight embrace.
Looking at the clock, a sob got caught in Jason’s throat. Ten seconds. He buried his face in Dick’s chest and shook gently as he felt a hand card gently through his hair.
A sob caught in Jason's throat and he screwed his eyes shut.
A shaky hand settled atop his head and fingers slowly began to run through his hair.
Pulling away slightly, Jason looked up at his big brother.
Tears were streaking down Dick's face and a hand cupped Jason's cheek.
"I'm so damn proud of you, Jay. You've been so strong."
Dick settled a hand on Jason's shoulder and looked at him with a watery smile.
"Let's face this together, Little Wing."
Steeling himself, Jason took a deep breath and closed his eyes.
Because I could not stop for Death –
He kindly stopped for me –
The Carriage held but just Ourselves –
- Emily Dickinson