If ever there was a time to not be out alone, this would be it. Jason grimaces as long clawed fingers scrape across his helmet. He fires off a few rounds at one, but another slides between his legs, slashing at the insides of his thighs. Jason drops to a knee, swinging out at the two in front of him. Both go down, but the third slices into his back. Jason shouts in pain, whipping around to shoot at him. The other two drag him down and Jason feels cold water splash against his back.
He doesn't give them a chance to get ahold of his legs, kicking out at the third and springing himself up and over the other two, forcing them to let go of his shoulders. Jason fires his grapple gun, pulling himself out of sight for a few seconds. He runs down the length of five buildings, his legs getting tired by the time he leaps down into Gotham Plaza. He stumbles on the landing, crashing into the water fountain in the center. People scream and Jason groans, pulling himself to his feet. The three assassins are flying towards him and he puts an arm up to block. The claws score down his forearm and Jason grits hit teeth, pouncing on one of the three and putting a round in their chest. One down.
One of the two remaining, the only one without claws, grabs onto him, swinging him around and throwing him into the fountain. The concrete cracks his helmet. Jason sputters, blood turning the water around him red. He backs to the other side, crawling out. He dodges another strike and pulls his helmet from his face, putting it on the clawless one and locking it in place. He struggles to get it off, the heads-up display cracked and the lenses only half-working. The second one comes after him, claws scoring across Jason's ribs and a second swipe crossing his cheek.
Bruce is snapped awake by Dick slamming his door open. "Bruce, we gotta go, now! Jason's in trouble."
Bruce flies from his bed in a hurry, changing into the cape and cowl in record time and tearing out of the Batcave. Dick says he'll meet up with him on site. He pulls up the live feed and notes the fastest course to Gotham Plaza. The footage isn't promising. Jason is favoring his entire left side and he's losing blood. The water in the fountain is crimson.
One of the three assassins is down, the other two still looking perfectly fine. Jason's guns are discarded, probably empty, and his breaths are labored enough to see his shoulders heaving from the feed. His helmet is lying on the ground in pieces. A sense of urgency washes over Bruce and he pushes the bounds of strictly safe driving speeds.
Jason takes a hard hit to the head, the claws of the second assassin cutting into his calf. He slams into the ground hard, trying to crawl to his feet. Not my son. Not again.
Bruce arrives on site, ejecting from the car and tackling the clawed assassin. She shrieks in surprise and Bruce feels a spark of satisfaction. He knocks her out cold, turning to face the other. He has Jason in his arms, one wrapped firmly around his throat and his other hand holding Jason's face, threatening to break his neck. Bruce growls just as a flash of silver hits the man on the head. He crumples, falling on top of Jason. Bruce acknowledges Red Robin with a curt nod and kneels next to Jason.
"He got tied up in a bank robbery down on fifth. I called ahead to Agent A and told him to prep the infirmary."
Bruce orders Tim to get the gauze from the Batmobile, blood still flowing from Jason's wounds all over. He pulls his shredded jacket free and rips his armor the rest of the way down the back to open up space for the gauze spread. Jason groans, trying to arch away from him hands, but Bruce holds him steady. Tim rips open the package of gauze and Bruce unfolds it, gently pressing it to Jason's skin. It's made to expand on contact with blood to protect the injury, way beyond military grade. Bruce wraps a smaller piece around his arm and places another along the line of his ribs. Jason winces as Bruce tugs another piece around his leg as tight as he can.
The police arrive and Tim glances at them. "B...."
"Hold them off for as long as you can."
"You mean.... like fight them?"
"No, just go talk to them."
Dick arrives on scene and Tim fills him in on the way to the barrier that the police have set up. The cops don't listen and they push past his two sons. Bruce grimaces.
"Sorry, kiddo. This is gonna hurt."
Bruce hauls Jason up into his arms and Jason makes a sound caught somewhere between a scream and a whimper. The cops slow, their weapons still drawn. Without the modulator to mask his voice, he sounds like the kid he is. They stop at twenty feet, a safe enough distance considering Jason's condition.
"Hand him over!" one shouts.
Bruce grips Jason a little tighter and Jason sucks in a sharp breath. "I don't think so. He's lost a lot of blood and if you think for one second that I trust the medical team to keep him alive, you'd be wrong." Jason makes an agonized sound and the cops waver.
"Put the Red Hood on the ground and back away!" a younger one shouts.
Bruce knows one thing for sure. He's not putting Jason down. Jason coughs, blood puffing up against Bruce's face and Bruce nearly recoils. Nearly. Nightwing and Red Robin force their way into the circle, standing between Bruce and the cops. Dick raises his escrima sticks and Tim extends his bow staff, twirling it slowly.
"Back away." Dick warns. "You don't want to get in the middle of this."
A young kid with a shaky trigger finger fires off a round and Dick yelps as it clips his arm, gripping it. Bruce feels anger boil in his gut and he growls low in his throat. The officers still and Tim throws a smoke pellet down at their feet. More shots are fired into the smoke until someone calls for them to stop.
"Get out of here, Batman! Go!" Tim shouts.
Bruce turns on his toes and makes a break for the Batmobile, gently putting Jason down in the passenger's seat. Jason whimpers and Bruce closes the hatch, whipping the car around and heading for the cave. The police give chase and Bruce is shocked. It doesn't take much to lose them and he does a scan for any tracers they could have planted before he got back in the car. He finds two, one in the fender-well and another just over the rear booster. Bruce flips on the safety measures and they both pop off, crackling and sparking.
Jason groans, coming around and Bruce spares him a glance. He's peeling his mask off of his face, the mask ripped and one of his eyes crossed with a scratch. Bruce takes one hand off the wheel to stroke Jason's hair reassuringly and Jason bares his teeth, groaning.
"I know. Just keep still. We'll get you fixed up in-" Jason's head lolls to the side and Bruce sucks in a sharp breath. "Stay with me, kiddo."
Jason doesn't respond and Bruce grimaces, whipping through the streets as quickly as he can. The satellite imagery maps out the area and informs him of civilian presences before he reaches each street and it's a good thing, too. Bruce is way past strictly necessary in the speed department.
Jason is jostled from time to time, each jerk eliciting a strained gasp from him. They near the Batcave and Bruce skids to a stop once he's inside, barely letting the platform turn the car around before he's jumping out for Jason. Alfred beckons him over once Jason is securely in his arms and Bruce carries him as quickly as he can, Jason letting out a yelp as he's picked up. He lays Jason down on his right side, giving Alfred good access to the majority of Jason's wounds. Alfred sets to work, drizzling warm water on the gauze to get it to release. Jason tries to curl up, but Bruce holds onto him.
"You have to stay still, Jason."
"Hurts." Jason answers, swallowing.
Bruce looks up at Alfred who nods, letting him know that he's about to start stitching him up. There's really nothing to be done in the way of anesthetic. Jason will only burn through it anyway. Alfred works as quickly as he can and Damian comes down the cave steps. Jason opens his eyes, vision clearly distorted as he blinks to make anything out, catching sight of his little brother. He grips Bruce's wrist and Bruce beckons Damian, Jason reaching out with his injured arm to pull the boy close to his chest. Before long, Damian is secure in Jason's grip, his small frame curled in front of Jason's.
Damian looks up at Bruce. "Father, I demand to know why I wasn't informed of this situation. And why is Todd acting so strangely?"
"This all happened in a bit of a hurry, Damian. There were a few assassins after Jason tonight."
Damian considers Bruce's excuse and nods, deeming it good enough for the time being. He's not happy about being used as Jason's pillow for the next two hours after Alfred finishes up his stitches, but Bruce doesn't want to risk waking him up. It'll be better to give his accelerated healing a chance to kick in first.
Bruce sifts through the news feeds, looking for any signs of his other two boys. There's no chatter that they've been apprehended, but Bruce won't take it as a good sign yet. Dick is still injured, and there's no telling how much that limits where they can go. There's no contact for another hour and Bruce starts to get antsy, Damian picking up on it from where he's trapped in Jason's grip.
"It's not good, is it?"
"They're missing, for now. No comm signals or security feeds are picking them up, and I send a message to Oracle, but she hasn't found anything either."
"Most likely. There were shots fired, and Dick was hit. I don't know about Tim."
Damian swears and Bruce absently tells him to mind his language. Jason laughs from on the table, causing Bruce to turn.
"Ugh." Jason lets go of Damian upon realizing that he's holding him and pushes him off the table. He recoils as the pain hits him like a fist and gasps, dragging himself upright. "You say that almost as if you care, Bruce."
Damian growls, brushing himself off. "I see you're back to your usual self."
Jason laughs sourly. "Thanks, brat." he hops up from the table, limping over to the Batcomputer. "So, old man, no luck on your missing birds? Are you worried?"
Bruce sighs heavily, knowing that Jason is definitely not in the best mood. There are days when he's more tolerant of them, and this is clearly not one of them. The blood loss must have hit him pretty hard during Alfred's stitching, since he reached out of his own accord.
"I worry about all of you." Bruce answers, shifting a camera to see if he can get any information from the nearby surroundings.
"Would you just stop with that, already? I already know that you'd be a lot happier if I was gone. I wouldn't be able to kill people, so why don't you just go out and lo-"
Bruce stands from his seat, turning around and gripping Jason's shoulders. Jason's eyes widen, taking two steps back. Bruce follows. "Jason, stop lying to yourself! This angry persona does nothing to help either of us! When Dick woke me up tonight-" Bruce shakes his head. "I don't care what you do! I just need you alive and safe, Jason! That is all I want, and that it all I ever will want! So stop telling me what I do and don't care about! Dick took a bullet for you tonight, so yes, I'll keep looking for him, but I'm also going to stay here and take care of you!"
Jason is quiet before giving himself a firm shake, jerking from Bruce's hands. "Whatever helps you sleep at night."
Bruce drops his hands, only reaching out again when Jason shows his first signs of fatigue, his balance wavering. "Sit down before you hurt yourself."
Jason growls, limping back over to the steel table and crossing his arms. "Happy?"
Bruce uses the lenses in the cowl to scan him and shakes his head. "Not quite." Jason scowls, looking away from Bruce while he moves across the cave. Bruce grabs a thick blanket, dropping it next to Jason on his way by. "Your body temperature is low, and you're shivering."
"Yeah, that's what happens when you bleed all over the place." Jason hisses.
"Use it or don't, Jason, but just keep in mind that it doesn't get any warmer down here."
Bruce sits back down at the monitor and pulls up the vital signs from the table in a small screen, keeping an eye on Jason. What he doesn't see is Jason curling the blanket around his shoulders when the shivering gets to be a bit much to handle. His temperature goes up just a little.
Damian walks by and he and Jason have a quiet conversation that turns to yelling pretty quickly. His heart rate and blood pressure rise and Bruce turns just a bit to see Jason massaging his temples as he gets dizzy. Bruce calls Damian over and Damian scowls one last time at his older brother before heeding Bruce's words.
Bruce tugs Damian into his lap and Damian struggles, but Bruce isn't having it. Eventually, he settles, having no choice but to comply.
"You need to leave Jason alone for awhile." Bruce murmurs. "Look."
Damian analyzes the screen with Jason's stream of data. His body temperature is low. Heart rate, too. Blood pressure is falling now that Damian is away from him. The only thing that's actually a good sign is his brain waves.
Jason shifts the blanket, hunching as much as he can. It's not much at all and he glares at the floor before his gaze starts to wander. He watches Bruce page through feed after feed in search of his two other sons and a swell of indigence pushes through him. He's not taking care of anyone.
It's another few minutes of staring at the screen on the bottom left before he realizes what he's seeing. Just to make sure, he spins his arms to get his blood pumping and sure enough, the heart rate on screen spikes. Bruce looks over at it and Jason blinks. After Bruce notes that he's calming, his gaze flicks back to the other monitors. Jason does it again, this time for longer and Bruce turns his head again. Jason gets a lightheaded feeling. Damian peers around the edge of the chair and Jason is clutching a hand to his chest, dizzy, and breaths coming hard. Bruce is still staring at Jason's monitor.
"Jason, whatever you're doing back there had better stop. Your oxygen levels are low enough as it is. There's no need to make anything worse by getting your blood pressure up for blood you don't have."
Jason grits his teeth, nodding once. Guess he is paying attention..... huh.
Bruce continues to watch over his screen along with the other feeds without pausing. He doesn't find anything, and Oracle has no leads either. It's then that Bruce is struck with an idea. He stands, sliding his chair away. Jason pricks to attention and Damian squirms out of his arms.
"What is it, father?"
Bruce taps into the cameras at Gotham Plaza, looking for any signs of what he's hoping for. There. A manhole cover.
Damian tugs on his cape insistently. "Father?"
"They're in the sewers." Bruce murmurs.
Jason catches on first, his attitude disappearing as he realizes what that means. "Bruce, you said Dick was shot. If they're still down there-"
"I know, Jason."
"We have to go!" Damian demands.
Bruce starts to run with him before stopping, looking back at his son. Jason shakes his head. "Go already, old man. There's no time to waste on me."
Damian cuts him off, grabbing the backpack full of medical supplies. "He said to go, now let's go!"
Bruce turns, leaping into the car. Jason's blood is still on the seat, but Damian doesn't seem to mind, sliding his katana into the footwell. Bruce gets Damian to pull up the footage from three hours ago.
"I need you to calculate trajectory of those bullets. Find out how many potentially could have hit one of the other boys."
On the way, Damian picks out seven possible trajectories, but the boys are too clouded by smoke to tell if anything made contact. They arrive on site and Bruce investigates for a few short moments before jumping down into the manhole. Damian follows shortly after.
Jason patches into the comms not long before Bruce finds the first patch of blood. "Find anything?"
"You're supposed to be resting, Hood."
"Please don't tell me you're still stuck on that."
"If you do too much-"
"Just shut up already and tell me what you found!" Jason snaps. "Don't act so worried!"
"We've got blood. Robin is cleaning it up now."
They follow the trail, and along the way, Damian identifies it as Dick's. Bruce spots a blood smear on the wall, the fingers that made the mark slim. Bruce murmurs to Damian to keep close, the blood coming back as Tim's. Damian grumbles, but does as he's told.
"Batman?" Jason questions, asking for an update.
"We've got positive blood analysis on both of them. We haven't heard anything yet."
Bruce comes to a stop at a four-way split. Damian continues along the wall, keeping to the left for a short distance before returning. "No signs of them."
"They were trying to evade the cops if they chose to follow." Bruce answers. "There's a little blood on the rim of the second tunnel. They must have used their lines to get across without touching the sewage."
Damian hums in agreement and they hasten their tracking. The patches of blood are more focused, their rests longer. A prick of unease works its way through Bruce and he puts a hand on Damian's shoulder. He presses a finger to his lips, listening to the ambient noise. Bruce springs across a small gap, Damian leaping into Bruce's waiting arms on the other side. He puts Damian down, a jolt of protectiveness making him keep Damian directly in front of him.
"I can walk fine on my own." Damian growls.
"Humor me, Robin."
Jason laughs on the other side of the comms, the sound still sour, but not so much as before. Damian doesn't say anything to him, mindful of Bruce's warning earlier about Jason's condition. He may not like Jason, but he doesn't necessarily want him hurt, either. Making him overreact is one surefire way to ensure he gets hurt.
"What, nothin' to say to me, brat? Nothing about how daddy dearest loves you more than me?"
Bruce growls, pausing. "Hood, we'll have a long talk about this later, but until then, please focus on the matter at hand. Your brothers are-" Bruce swivels his head, hearing something out of the norm. "-here. I'll keep you posted."
He picks Damian up, a protest rising in his throat, but Bruce needs to travel fast. They reach a darker space, the area opening up and the sewage levels relatively low.
"Nightwing? Red Robin?"
There's a small shuffle and Bruce shines a light towards it. "Dad?"
Bruce is shocked by Tim's paleness. Blood drips from his nose and his cowl is down. "Red Robin, steady." Tim limps towards him, nearly falling off of the slim walkway as he stumbles. "Stop."
Tim nods, shifting to show Bruce his side. His hands shake and he looks up. "B?"
Bruce puts Damian down. "Nightwing?"
Tears well in Tim's eyes and Bruce shakes his head. "I don't know if he'll make it."
"Where?" Bruce growls out.
Tim turns to limp back the way he came, towards the far edge of the room, and Bruce picks him up, letting Damian scout ahead like he's been wanting to this whole time. Tim sobs into Bruce's shoulder.
"I.... he jumped in front of me when the police opened fire."
Bruce continues to follow Tim's directions and Damian finds Dick up ahead, the small nook almost unnoticeable. Damian pulls his backpack off and Bruce puts Tim down to help him patch Dick up. He's running a fever, and there's a bullet in his thigh, another near his collarbone. The graze from earlier is crusted over, and thankfully none show signs of infection. Tim groans and Bruce pulls his broken armor back to get at the wound in his side. He does a temporary fix, since Alfred will only clean it out and redo it later.
"Red Robin, I need you to calm down." Bruce says.
Tim stares at him for a few seconds before nodding, pulling his cowl back up. Bruce hefts Dick into his arms, ignoring his short scream of pain. Damian helps Tim walk until they reach the nearest manhole cover. Bruce calls the car, climbing out first with Dick over his shoulder. Damian's field medic work holds and Bruce hauls them up to the surface.
Jason asks about their status once they're en route and Bruce fills him in on their conditions. Jason's tone is neutral when he hears that they're alive, but Bruce knows him well enough to tell that he's relieved.
Once he arrives at the cave, Alfred makes quick work of Dick's gunshot wounds, stabilizing him with the utmost efficiency. Tim is next and Bruce notes that Damian is covertly hovering nearby. Mostly, he's keeping an eye on Dick.
Jason is all the way across the cave, beating up a training dummy despite his injuries. Pretending not to care. Bruce trails over quietly, pulling his cowl down, and watches him for a few second before placing a heavy hand on his shoulder. Jason stills.
"Jason, it's time to quit, kiddo."
Jason laughs. "I can't quit. You're the one who taught me that." He swings another punch at the dummy, but it's a weak attempt. "And quit acting like you care so much."
"I was wrong."
"What?" Jason whispers.
Bruce sighs, running a hand through his hair. "It's time to rest." Jason turns his head and Bruce knows that he has Jason's full attention. "Look at yourself. You're shaking, kiddo."
Jason scowls, but definitely knows he's caught. "It's cold."
"You're exhausted, Jason." Bruce says lowly. "There's no need for this now."
Jason takes a few shaky breaths, sweat dripping down his face. Bruce is silent for a few moments, letting Jason think it over on his own. If he doesn't come willingly, he won't at all. He looks at Bruce, his blue eyes searching. His gaze drops to Bruce's open palm and his brow furrows.
Bruce lifts his hand, slowly, so Jason doesn't bolt, and pulls Jason into a hug. Jason doesn't do anything at first, taking in breaths through his nose to try to hide his momentary panic. Bruce keeps a gentle hold on him, trying not to aggravate any of his injuries.
"You don't need to fight now."
Jason raises tentative hands to hug him back and Bruce smiles, pulling back to card his fingers through Jason's sweaty hair just once. Bruce tugs him back over to the tables and Jason settles down. Bruce wraps the blanket that he discarded around his shoulders, making sure he's snuggled in just right. Jason grips the tattered edges, staring up at Bruce.
"Bruce, what is this?"
Bruce chuckles, taking Jason's left hand to pull the tape free. He carefully unwinds it from Jason's fingers, finding cracked and bruised knuckles underneath. "This is me taking care of my son."
Bruce dabs at his knuckles with a wet towel, blood coming away on it. Jason winces from time to time, but he never takes his eyes off of Bruce, watching his every move. Bruce is deliberately careful with Jason's hands, ensuring that Jason knows Bruce intends to take care of him as well as he can. Jason winces as Bruce settles an ice pack on his knuckles, taking his other hand and repeating his actions.
It's only when a drop of water hits Bruce's hand that he pauses, glancing up at Jason's face.
"Whoa, hey, hey, kiddo. It's all right."
Jason shakes his head, squeezing his eyes shut at he looks away, clenching his jaw. "No."
Bruce is a little lost. He was not prepared for this. He definitely did not think this through. Jason is trying so hard to to cry, but the effort is failing, and Bruce isn't quite sure what to do now. Tears start to slide down his cheeks and Jason shakes his head again, trying to deny their presence.
Before Bruce understands what he's doing, his thumbs brush the tears from Jason's cheeks and Jason sucks in a sharp breath, soulful pools looking up at him from under tear-clotted lashes.
"It's all right, kiddo." Bruce murmurs.
Jason looks down at his hands, each with a small ice pack taped over his knuckles. A choked noise comes from his mouth and Bruce is stricken when he realizes that it was a sob. There's a brief moment of hesitation before Bruce acts, but he wraps his arms around Jason's shoulders, letting Jason cry into the crook of his neck. Jason grips the cape in his hands, breaths shuddering out of him. Bruce's fingers move into Jason's hair to comfort him of their own accord and Jason sinks towards him a little.
Looking over Jason's shoulder at his other three sons, Bruce smiles. Dick has Damian pulled up against his chest, snoozing right along. Tim's table is askew, but Tim is conked out. He'll never know the difference. His long hair dangles over his face and he snores lightly, drooling.
None of the three are awake to witness Jason's moments of weakness, and Bruce finds himself appreciative. Jason is shaking worse than before now, definitely too tired to keep this up for much longer. Still, with Jason curled around him like his life depends on it, Bruce knows one thing for sure.
He really needs to work on his communication with his kids.
Jason calms soon enough and Bruce just rocks with him for a little while, his free hand rubbing Jason's back. "It's all right, kiddo."
"How can you not hate me?"
Bruce shushes him. "You're my son."
"It doesn't change-"
"Shh, Jason. It doesn't have to." Bruce pulls back just enough to see Jason's face, smiling softly at him. "I don't care what you do. I told you. All I care about is that you're safe." Bruce tilts Jason's head down so he can plant a kiss in his hair and Jason takes a fluttery breath. "I almost lost three of you tonight." Bruce murmurs.
That scares Bruce now more than it used to.
From the table there's a drowsy, 'I'm fine.' is response. Bruce chuckles, gripping the side of Jason's neck before moving to check on Dick.
"I'll believe that when you aren't pumped full of painkillers."
"Mmmm, is'at why the lights are all.... floaty?"
Bruce laughs and it wakes Damian. Tim continues to snore and Dick giggles lazily and falls asleep again. Bruce picks Damian up and Damian squirms.
"I demand that you put me down!"
"Demand, do you?" Bruce chuckles. "I didn't hear any magic words." Bruce turns, grinning in Jason's direction. "Jason?"
He smirks. "Nope. Didn't hear 'em either."
Damian grumbles, crossing his arms before muttering out a 'please, put me down, father' and then he scurries off, out of the reach of any sleepy arms. Bruce gets Jason settled down on his side, the only reasonable way to do it with his injuries, and pulls a chair close to watch over them. Alfred puts a hand on Bruce's shoulder and offers him some hot tea. Bruce accepts with a slight upward tilt of his lips.
"Goodnight, Master Bruce." Bruce looks up at him. "If you plan to sleep at all, I'd suggest something other than this chair."
Bruce huffs good-naturedly. "Night, Alfred."
Alfred steps away without a sound and Bruce looks back to his injured sons. "Goodnight, boys."
Three equally tired "Night, dad"s come from the infirmary tables and Bruce's lips tip up a bit further. His boys are safe and already on the mend. He couldn't ask for anything else now. Not a single thing.