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thinking all love ever does is break and burn and end

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august 2019


Jason is smiling when he hangs up the phone, but he knows the pleasant, fluttery feeling in his stomach won't last long, that it will eventually turn into the tight, suffocating feeling of anxiety. He just wants to enjoy it while it lasts.

It's still all so very strange to him, how Roy wants to know more about him. Then again, Max had been the same, in the beginning. He had been charming, and attentive, and had let Jason talk for hours about his studies and his family - both biological and adopted. He wonders, sometimes, if that's just another way that everything was his fault, if telling him about his birth parents had planted the seed in his mind that Jason wouldn't recognise abuse until it was too late.

It was, after all, exactly what had happened.

Now he wonders if it will be the same with Roy. He knows that Dick trusts him, and Tim and Cass have vouched for him, too, but he wonders all the same.

How long will it be before Roy tires of listening to him? Before he realises that he'll have to take what Jason isn't yet ready to freely give, if he wants it, and acts on that knowledge. Before he starts making those small, soul-crushing comments about how Jason speaks, and dresses, and acts.

How long does he have before he has to go back to hiding bruises?

The problem is, he likes Roy, and he's not sure he's strong enough to walk away from such a situation again. Not sure he could survive it, this time.

It's absurd, he knows, to fall so quickly for someone, especially when he's only been away from Max for three months, but, well, he'd always fallen hard and fast.

He really, really wants to have fallen for the right person this time.

And, when he's with Roy, or even just when they're talking or texting, he feels like he has. It's as soon as they part ways that the doubts start to creep in.

Maybe that's what will be his undoing; Max always did tell him how needy he is. (And then turned right around and made sure Jason wasn't spending his time with anyone else, either. Rose is your ex, I’m uncomfortable with you spending time with her. Jase, Miguel likes you, he's going to try to steal you away from me. C'mon, babe, you were just at your mum's last weekend when your grandfather was visiting.

Jase, I swear to God if you go out while I'm gone, you're not going to be able to leave the house when I'm through with you.)

Roy has a life and family of his own, though, and Jason knows he has no right to infringe on that, no matter how insecure he is. He has to believe that if this isn't working out, Roy will tell him.

He wants to believe that, he really does. Maybe someday he will.

But right now, with everything still so fresh, he just can't.

He thinks his family might know it, too, because Dick is constantly telling him stories about how great Roy is, and Tim keeps asking if he's sure he's ready to start dating again. And Damian-

God, since that night in Roy’s car, Damian has been acting like his own personal guard-dog, hovering around Jason and glaring anyone who comes within ten feet of him into submission. It would be sweet, if it wasn't so fucking embarrassing.

Not to mention, he heard Damian talking to Jon on the phone the other day, heard him say he was considering deferring college until the next year so he could stay in Gotham. He needs to figure out how to talk to him about that, how to make him see that Jason would feel horrible if he made his baby brother put his life on hold for him, all because he was too much of a fuck up to take care of himself.

Probably, he shouldn't phrase it quite like that.

He can't deny that Damian's over-protective behaviour is putting him on edge, too. Logically, he knows that his brother would be like this with anyone Jason was seeing, but the fact that Damian knows Roy and is still acting this way… It scares him, a little, like maybe Damian knows something that Dick doesn't.

Jason isn't stupid; he did his own digging into Roy Harper-Queen when he found out who Roy was, knows there was a time when Roy had been cut off by his father, when he had taken to drugs and alcohol like they were all that mattered in life. He did the math, too, knows it had to have been less than a year before Lian was born that Oliver Queen reconciled with his eldest son.

Dick never talks about that side of Roy, and Jason's only ever seen him in long sleeves. And he knows, he knows, that not all addicts end up like his mama had, but-

The thought that Roy could relapse, that still scares him.

And it's such a horrible thing to think, because he barely knows Roy, but he's never given Jason any indication that he’s violent, or mean, or cruel, or that he's been anything less than stone-cold sober any time they've talked. He feels awful for questioning him, when it's more likely that this is all just a dark part of Roy's past, something he's put behind himself and recovered from.

Jason wonders when, exactly, he reverted back into that cautious, terrified little boy who assumed the worst in everyone he met. He wonders if he'll ever be able to overcome that way of thinking a second time.

More than anything, he hates how much Max managed to take from him.

Anxiety builds in his chest the longer he lays there dwelling in his thoughts, but Jason can't seem to stop. He tries to think about the tips his therapist gave him on mindful meditation and how to maintain control of a wandering mind, but it doesn't seem to help; the panic isn't fading. The memories of finding his mother dead, of Max's hands all over him, of the sound of glass breaking - they aren't fading, either.

He should leave his room, go find someone else in the Manor who can help him, but even the thought of trying to get up is too much, making his panic even worse. He's going to pass out again, and who knows if he'll wake up before he's found? What if he still can't breathe after he loses consciousness?

Oh God, he's going to suffocate and this time it really will be his own fault.

He reaches blindly for his phone, but even when he manages to grab it, his hands are shaking too badly to unlock it.

He's going to die. His lungs are collapsing, and he can't move, and he can't get help. He's going to die, and what if it's Damian who finds him? He's going to traumatise his baby brother.

He doesn't hear the knock at his door, or realise anyone has come into the room until Tim is leaning over him, fingers snapping next to his ears.

“Jason,” he finally makes out, and Tim doesn't sound frantic or angry, but Jason still gets the feeling it isn't the first time his name has been called.

“Jason, I need you to nod if you can hear me,” he says, and Jason struggles to obey but finally manages. Tim gives him a small smile and says, “Good, Jay. That's good. It's me, okay? It's Tim. I'm going to help you sit up, so I'm going to touch you.”

Jason manages another small nod, even as his lungs seem to seize in his chest and he takes in only the smallest gasp of air.

Carefully, Tim seats himself on the side of the bed, and puts one hand behind Jason's neck and loops his other arm around his back to ease him up.

“You're okay,” he reassures, and Jason shakes his head, opens his mouth to protest but nothing comes out and he gasps for air again instead, “Yes you are, Jay. You're having a panic attack, okay? Your lungs haven't collapsed, Jason, I promise. I would never lie to you, your lungs are okay, but I need you to breathe.”

He takes one of Jason's hands into his own and presses it to his chest.

“Breathe with me, okay?” He says, and Jason shakes his head again, “Yes, Jason. Breathe with me. Take a breath in, you can do it. Let's just try, okay?”

Jason curls the fingers of his free hand into the bedsheets as he chokes over another breath, but he holds it when Tim tells him to, and shakily lets it out when he's told to, as well.

“Good,” Tim murmurs, “Another one, okay? Deeper this time, if you can.”

Jason tries, he really does, but he just chokes again. Tim is patient with him, even as Jason flinches away when he starts to lift his other hand.

“Easy,” Tim soothes, “No one will hurt you here. I'm just going to take your other hand, okay?”

He waits, breathing evenly, until Jason struggles through a few more breaths and finally nods, before carefully prying Jason’s fingers away from their death-grip on the sheets. Then, he guides his hand up to Jason's own chest and holds it there, allowing him to feel the rise and fall of Tim's chest with one hand, and his own with the other.

“Keep breathing for me, Jay,” he says, “Do you feel that? Your chest is moving. Your lungs are filling up exactly the way they're supposed to. They're okay. You're okay.”

Jason wants to scream at Tim to stop lying to him, wants to beg him to call 911, because that can't be true. It feels so much like it did before, and his chest aches and his vision is blurring, and Jason can't stop feeling like he's dying. Again.

But Tim wouldn't lie to him, would he? Tim wouldn't just sit there and watch Jason suffocate and die, so… So Tim has to be right, then. Doesn't he?

Tim snaps his name out and Jason blinks back to attention as he draws in a shallow breath.

“God, Jay,” Tim murmurs, and he looks shaken, now, “Please, focus on me, Jason. Only on me. You stopped breathing for a minute there.” He squeezes Jason's wrist gently, “Breathe in, Jason.”

In. Hold. Out. Hold.

In. Hold. Out. Hold.

In. Hold-

Out.

In, out.

In, out.

Slowly, Jason regains control of his breathing, and revels in that for a few long breaths before he slumps forward against his brother's chest. Tim shifts them both around until his back is against the headboard and Jason is laying half-over and half-next to him. Tim's fingers trace up and down his spine a few times before tangling into Jason's hair and staying there.

“What happened, Jay?” He asks eventually, and Jason winces, tries to hide his face against Tim's shirt.

“Nothing,” he says, just loud enough to be heard in such close proximity, “I just got off the phone with Roy, and-”

Tim actually growls, and Jason tenses up in his arms but doesn't dare to pull away.

“Did he do something to you?” He demands, and Jason tips his head back to look up in shock; Tim's eyes are cold and blank in a way Jason has only seen once before. But unlike that day in his hospital room in London, when Tim had turned that gaze on him while cataloguing every stitch, and bruise, and bandage, Jason doesn't feel afraid. This time, all he feels is safe.

Because he can see it now, that it will never be like the last time. No matter what happens, no matter who Roy turns out to be, Jason won't be trapped again. There are people here who are watching, who would notice, and if anyone dares to hurt him again, they will find the full force of the Wayne children coming down on them. Even before Bruce, or Talia, or Ra's got their shot at them, there might already be nothing left to destroy.

Tim, of course, takes Jason’s silence entirely the wrong way, and his hand moves to cup his brother's jaw. “Jason,” he says, guiding Jason to focus on him again, “Did Roy threaten you?”

Jason shakes his head frantically, and clutches at Tim's shirt.

“No!” He exclaims, “No, no, Timmy, it's not like that!” Tim doesn't seem even remotely placated, but instead of demanding answers, he merely raises an eyebrow.

Jason huffs, and drops his head back onto Tim's chest, his cheeks suddenly darkening with shame as he admits, “It isn't something Roy did - or said he'd do! It's just… It's what I'm afraid he could do. Might do? I-” Tim lets out a slow breath above him, and Jason thinks it might be from relief because he can feel Tim relaxing underneath him now.

“Max was nice at first, too,” he finishes, voice once more barely above a whisper, and Tim wraps his arm around him.

“We've all known Roy for years,” Tim says after a moment, “And Bruce has known Oliver for far longer.” Trust us, he seems to be saying, we wouldn't let you see him if we thought he'd hurt you.

And, God, Jason wants to believe that, he really does, but...

“But just now, you were so ready to believe he could have hurt me,” Jason points out, “And- And Dames seems so sure that he's bad news.”

Tim sighs again, and gently cards his fingers through Jason's hair as he considers his response.

“Roy is a good person, Jay,” he finally says, “But I'm worried about you. I'm not sure you're ready to be seeing someone yet.” He hesitates, and then explains, “I worry that he could hurt you and not even know it, because he might ask something of you and you might be afraid to say no.”

Jason shudders, but he doesn't admit that he worries about the same thing, sometimes.

“Damian told me what happened the other night,” Tim continues, and Jason opens his mouth to protest, to say that he'd wanted to kiss Roy, but Tim shushes him and continues, “I know he misunderstood, Jay. But. I also know how quickly kissing escalates into making out and, suddenly, you're in the back seat, tearing at each other's clothes, and, Jason, are you going to be able to tell him to stop, if that happens before you're ready for it?”

Jason stays silent, knowing he can't give the response that Tim wants, only the one he expects; his silence is confirmation enough, anyway. He isn't sure he could explain to his brother why it's just easier not to fight, why he'd prefer to just give Roy what he wants, if (when, the back of his mind whispers) it comes to that, rather than risk his anger, than risk being called a tease and a selfish whore, and being beaten before Roy takes what he wants, anyway. Why it's better to just go along and get it over with as painlessly as possible.

His brother already looks at him with enough pity as it is.

“That’s what I thought,” Tim murmurs eventually, and Jason hates how the disappointment he just knows Tim is hiding is making his eyes burn. Tim sighs, and shifts around until he’s able to lie down properly, Jason’s body still draped over his own.

“Roy’s a good guy,” he reiterates, fingers back to stroking along his brother’s spine, “And he’s smart, too. Maybe he’d see the signs, even if you don’t say anything, but maybe he wouldn’t - and it would hurt him to hurt you, too, Jay. You won’t be the only one dealing with the fallout if you push yourself past your limits.” He presses a kiss to the crown of Jason’s head, and sighs again, “At least give that some thought, okay?”

“Okay,” Jason mumbles, mostly because he knows it’s what Tim wants to hear, but also because he wants to hope that it might be true. It’s just hard, to make himself believe that Roy might not actually want to see him hurt; it’s no longer something that feels familiar to him.

“What’re you doin’ here, anyway?” Jason finally thinks to ask, because Tim doesn’t live in the Manor anymore, and he’s only just remembering that now that the panic has fully dissipated, “Not that ‘m not glad you are.”

His brother just snorts, and continues to stroke his back soothingly.

“Doesn’t matter,” he finally says, and Jason isn’t sure that that’s true, but he isn’t going to argue, “A nap sounds like a way better idea, anyway.”

Jason hums, and wraps his own arm tighter around the other man.

“If I’da known all it’d take t’ make you sleep was me losin’ my mind,” he teases, “I’da scheduled this little breakdown sooner.”

“Jerk,” Tim says, and flicks his ear lightly.

Jason grins, and nuzzles into his brother’s chest, closing his eyes.

“Thanks, Timmy.”

He’s halfway out within seconds, and barely registers Tim’s response a moment later.

“Always, Jay,” he says sadly, watching his older brother doze off before closing his own eyes. He might as well squeeze in some rest while the opportunity has presented itself.