Jason sighed. The mood around the manor was somber and continued to be so as his siblings slowly approached him with increasing levels of awkwardness. For the last few hours they’d been walking into the rooms Jason was occupying to just stare at him, make failed attempts at conversation, then walk out again. He had actually heard Tim banging his forehead against a cupboard muttering ‘Stupid. Stupid. Stupid.’ This was the reason he had retreated to the kitchen, content to sit on the countertops and read with Alfred’s understanding presence. Midnight would mark the anniversary of his death(not as though they all didn’t have one, just that his had been decidedly more permanent until the whole Superboy Prime fiasco), something Jason was not particularly thrilled about, because, well, it wasn’t particularly a good memory. He was flippant about his death because he didn’t see a point in avoiding the matter, but the anniversary always dredged up weird feelings. It was one of the days he felt most like was living on borrowed time.
Exhaustion seeped into his bones, and all Jason wanted was to stop thinking. He had spent the last fifteen minutes staring at a single paragraph and wondering what kinds of nightmares would haunt him tonight. Giving up, Jason decided to retreat to his bed for the night, and face whatever it had in store for him head on. He bid Alfred a good night, trudging up the stairs to burrow under his sheets and curl around one of the pillows. He was asleep before his head hit the mattress.
As expected, Jason’s sleep was fitful, plagued with scenes of the Joker curling over him with that godforsaken crowbar. The pain felt deceptively real.
Sometime after he jolted awake for the millionth time, the bed dipped, and Jason was up in an instant, fingers scrabbling for the knife on his bedside table. A hand clamped around his arm and Jason tensed, ready to fight before a familiar voice hushed him.
“Shh,” the voice said, the gentle lull of it causing Jason to question if he was still dreaming, until, “It’s just me, little wing.”
“Dickie?” Jason asked, just for confirmation, and relaxed some when the silhouette of his predecessor nodded.
“Yeah.” Dick shifted the blanket, slipping under it and pushing Jason back onto the pillows.
“Why are you here?” Jason asked groggily, letting himself be coerced into a lying position once more.
Dick shrugged, “I wanted to cuddle my little brother?”
Jason blinked at him for a moment, before deciding that he didn’t have enough energy to question Dick’s suspicious motive.
“Whatever.” He rolled over, back facing Dick, but settled nonetheless when an arm was thrown across his torso and a warm body pressed against his.
As the night wore on, Jason woke every now and then to find more of his siblings had somehow crawled onto his bed. Cass had curled up on the pillows around his head and Dick’s like the cat she was, her body a comforting weight. Damian had curled up on Jason’s outstretched arm, Steph behind the youngest using Cass as an overgrown pillow, and Tim flopped over Dick, his head resting uncomfortably on Jason’s ribs. It was the kind of discomfort that Jason wouldn’t trade the world for, the familial kind he treasured, that most everyone treasured.
The next time he startled awake, a familiar figure was towering over them, the dim light from the hallway framing him.
“Dad?” Jason queried in a voice that was small, and tired, and worn. Maybe even a little bit afraid.
Bruce seemed to freeze where he stood. Jason rarely ever called him that, only ever to tease or because he needed his father in the moment, and Bruce would forever do his utmost to be there for his son.
“Hey, Jason,” Bruce replied, reaching a hand down to rest in Jay’s hair.
Jason hummed, closing his eyes and letting the outside chill from Bruce’s fingers soothe his warm skin. Sleeping with four siblings and his own personal Stephanie generated enough body heat to be mildly disconcerting, but not nearly enough to will Jason to move. He paused for a moment, coming to some sort of decision. Before Bruce could attempt to read his expression, Jason reached for Damian and pulled the younger boy into his chest, smiling with weary fondness when he tried to burrow even closer. The space created between Damian’s small body and Stephanie’s legs, he offered to Bruce.
“You look beat, B. Want to sleep with us?”
Bruce smiled, “Sure, Jay.”
Jason awoke choking on Stephanie’s hair. He shoved it out of his mouth disgustedly and poked Steph awake with a vengeance. This, in turn, jostled Damian, and slowly, all six of them returned to the land of the living. Well seven, technically, but Bruce had been awake before any of them. He was currently surveying Steph’s bright purple, star-spangled leggings, which were hard to ignore when they were hanging in one’s face.
“Got a problem with my tights, boss man?”
Bruce was silent for a few moments.
“No,” he said eventually, “Violet is a good color for you.”
Stephanie, along with the rest of them(excluding Cass, because when was Cass ever surprised by anything their family did) gaped.
“Oh,” she said, “Thanks.”
There was a huff of laughter behind Jason, tickling his ear.
“Hey,” came Dick’s voice, quiet, “Feeling okay?”
All things considered, Jason supposed he was, in fact, feeling pretty okay. He made an unsuccessful attempt at nodding, but Dick seemed to understand. Cass, meanwhile, had taken to playing with Jason’s hair, tangling the longer strands of his bangs between her nimble little fingers. Tim, the last of them to escape the alluring clutches of sleep, pulled his head from Jason’s ribcage, and Jason winced at the soreness it left behind. They settled into a comfortable sort of conversation, Damian satisfied to keep his face smushed against Jason’s chest, moving only to offer his input or signature, ‘Tt.’
At half past noon, Alfred wheeled in a cart of freshly prepared brunch, and Jason grinned his thanks, requesting their grandfather join them as waffles were passed around and threats of syrup down people’s shirts followed.
The hurt wasn’t gone, Jason wasn’t sure if it ever would be, but a part of him was okay with that. Everyone was a little bit broken, but waking up with his family on the day that was supposed to prevent him from ever doing so again filled him with a sort of foreign warmth that outweighed the pain. He didn’t know if, in the future, one of them would fuck it up again, if rifts would wedge them apart. What he did know, was that after everything he had been through with these people, somehow they’d find a way back to each other, somehow they would patch their ragtag little family together again.
For now, Jason was content to blow powdered sugar onto Cassandra’s nose and watch her sneeze and bat at him in vain.