He gets there in time to hear the thud, but not to prevent it. Too late. The story of Jason’s life summarized in two words.
It’s useless to run now, so he walks. Stops in his track only to observe the pool of blood and rain dripping from the sidewalk and onto the street, a pink, syrupy river that goes to die into an open manhole and right into the sewers, carrying away every bit of garbage it finds along the way. Not a nice view, but it's still easier than looking at his brother's bent form, the familiar shape of the Nightwing’s insignia stretched into a desperate curve of contracted muscles and quivering shoulders.
“It wasn’t your fault.”
Jason doesn’t even know if it’s true or not, but he would bet on it anyway. Because this is Nightwing. This is Dick Grayson. So it could only be an accident. Even if there’s so much blood. Even if the guy’s face is so devastated that Jason can barely guess what he used to look like. One of the Joker’s henchmen maybe, if the white grease paint is of any indication.
It’s Dick’s voice but it doesn’t sound like it. It doesn’t even sound like the Nightwing’s voice Dick sometimes uses as a mock of the Batman’s growl. It’s a deep, cavernous vibrations, and it doesn’t sound like anything Jason’s ever heard before, not coming out of his oldest brother’s mouth, at least. Anger he’s familiar with. Pain too. This? This is too broken for him to handle.
“Then get up. The ambulance is on its way, and so is GCPD.”
Dick's face is hidden behind his hands. The blue of his finger-stripes is tainted with red stains around the knuckles. Jason swallows and takes a step forward anyway.
“He’s still alive, Dick. It looks worse than it is.”
Sitting on the ground with his leg pulled to his chest, and all alone under the pouring rain, Dick looks so small to actually make Jason feel uncomfortable by looking at him. He’s been taller than Dick for years now, but the feeling of the first Robin towering over him never really went away with time, no matter how many inches he gained over him. So this thing here, this can’t be happening. Because this is not right.
He crouches down in front of his brother, puts an hand over his shoulder and squeezes hard.
“Dick, for the sake of Bruce’s pointy ears. That shithead is still alive and it’s not your fault he fell while you were fighting. Get your fat ass up.”
The corner of Dick’s mouth - the only part that Jason can see of his face - twitches in what could almost look like a smile.
“That’s how I killed him.”
“I just told you-”
Dick shakes his head.
Jason pauses. Debates with himself if he should humor Dick or just grab him, throw him over his shoulder and drag him back to the cave, where gentler, more expert and patient hands can take care of him and his traumatised rambling. If this were Tim or Damian, the choice would be simpler. But an unwilling Nightwing is a little harder to carry, even for the Red Hood.
“Then who?”, Jason asks. “Who the hell did you kill?”
Okay, Jason thinks. And for a moment he feels like his blood is flowing backwards because what the fuck, honestly.
“Okay”, he repeats out loud, gripping Dick by his elbow and preparing himself to pull. “Now please, get up.”
Dick shakes his head again and this time he lets his hands fall from his face. The two white lens of his domino are pointed at Jason now, and under the streetlights they look hollow, like doll’s eyes.
“I thought he had killed Tim”, Dick explain slowly. “He hadn’t. But I lost it anyway. Like tonight, with him.”
Jason swallows again.
“You would never-”
Dick's head snaps like a guitar string.
“After you? After Barbara?”, the words are angry, almost accusing, and Jason’s hands are suddenly so heavy he can barely lift them. But the sirens are getting closer and closer every passing minute, and Gordon may have a few more concerns than Jason has about the current circumstances.
“You need to get up”, he insists then, because the rule is that only one member of the family at a time can lose their shit over past trauma. Jason will have to wait for his turn.
“Bruce fixed it”, Dick continues instead, still unmoving. “But even after that. The first time he laid a finger on Damian I thought-”
Jason slaps him hard enough across the mouth to send Dick’s head flying over his shoulder, and the sound of kevlar gauntlets over the bare skin is a full, satisfying one. He grabs a handful of Dick’s wet hair and pulls hard enough to hurt.
“I don’t care”, he growls into his brother’s face. “I really don’t give a shit about your latent homicidal pulses, Grayson. But if you don’t get a move I may decide to indulge mine. Understood?”
Behind the lens, Dick’s eyes seem to struggle to refocus on him.
“You slapped me.”
He sounds so offended Jason actually snorts.
“Say it as it is, Grayson. I bitch-slapped you”, he corrects him. He gives Dick’s arm another pull. “Can you stand?”
Dick blinks, then looks down at his feet.
“...I think so.”
It takes some maneuvering, but together they manage to get him to stand. It’s still weird, Jason thinks, having to be there for him like this. Stabs and broken ribs are one thing, but emotional collapses are one kind of wound they’re very little familiar with, at least when it comes to others.
He puts his brother’s arm around his neck and starts dragging him away from the dark alley. He feels Dick trying to turn around to look at the man still lying on the sidewalk and tugs him closer into his side.
“My bike’s that way”, he mutters under his breath.
Dick hesitates a moment, then starts limping along. They manage to cross the street and slide into another alley without attracting too much attention. Behind them, the ambulance stops with a long screeching of brakes.
“I’m sorry”, Dick says eventually, after a long silence filled only by the sound of the rain. “I should know better than freeze like that in the middle of the street.”
Jason doesn’t answer. An hour ago, he wouldn’t have believed that such a thing could even happen in the first place.
“I’m also sorry for what I said. For how I said it”, Dick continues, sounding unsure. “I guess you didn’t need to-”
“You'll tell me that story again another night”, Jason cuts him off, because he doesn’t have the mental strength to deal with that too. “With a six-pack of beer in between us and a few bottles of wine as witnesses.”
Dick laughs into his ear and that, finally, does sound like his voice.