Terry wants to say he's fine with cemeteries, after all he's been to plenty during his lifetime. Like when his grandparents died, or his father- funerals and such were all part of life.
He just... didn't make a habit of visiting. Maybe dad was a different story, after all, he took Matt once every month or so. The cemetery Warren McGinnis was buried in was open, where you could see blue skies over you, with tasteful flowers and few trees. A beautiful place to put your loved ones to rest, if Terry had to have an opinion
Wayne cemetery was the complete opposite. Seated just far enough on Wayne property that you had to drive to it, it looked like it was surrounded by a haunted forest, something directly out of a horror movie. The place was eerily quiet any time Terry was close enough to hear it. It was as if the ghosts it held were still there, waiting for someone to return. Every Wayne who had ever lived in Gotham was buried there- at least, according to Bruce they were.
According to Bruce, he was also too old to make this trip on his own. As good as he was, Bruce just wasn’t the man he once was, at least physically. His legs were not as strong, his bones, far too brittle.
Sure, he could pack a mean punch if needed, and was a terror with that cane, but it put all un-needed stress on his body; and while Bruce will let himself take time with most things, sometimes the man could be unbearably stubborn and stupid.
Terry didn't know whether to be impressed, or if it was just sad. He wondered if any of his former robins felt the same way.
But still, here Terry was, trekking through a dark, old, family cemetery, with his equally old mentor, trying not to jump at every shadow. Terry could feel the sweat plastered to his back, Gotham summers a complete opposite to its winters. Hot and humid, and absolutely disgusting.
“We couldn't have come earlier?” Terry swatted away a mosquito that was buzzing near his face, and glared at Wayne’s back. While it was only sunset, the oncoming night and trees blocking the sun made it feel that much darker. “I feel like an axe murderer is gonna come and get me”
Bruce snorted, and even though Terry couldn't see his face, he could tell the old man was smirking at Terry's expense
“Don't be dramatic.”
“I'll have you know its my god given right to be dramatic.”
An imagined roll of Bruce's eyes. “Sure it is McGinnis.”
Bruce fell silent again, and Terry slowly matched his pace, walking beside the man rather than behind him. Ace took the other side, ever faithful to his master.
It was, in its own sort of creepy way, peaceful. The fireflies helped light their path, along with some electric lamps on the pathway. If Terry squinted, he could barely make out the purple-orange-pink of the sun setting behind the tree line.
It was a morbid thought, to think that sometime a few years down the line, Bruce would be here, laid to rest for the final time.
“We’re here.” Bruce spoke, breaking Terry out of his reverie. The man sat on plain looking bench to catch his breath, the only one on the path, and Terry sat beside him. He could only guess that the two graves in front of them were their destination.
One was barely remarkable, a name, dates, and a few lines faded by the years.
The other was more ornate. An angel stood over it, her arms stretched out, a gentle smile on her face as if welcoming a child home again. Little baubles decorated the top of the headstones, as well around it. Pretty stones on the top, a baseball and glove, a book worn by the weather and a framed photo of someone with dirt crusted to the glass at the base of it.
Jason Peter Todd
Beloved son and Friend
August 16 1995 - April 27 2010
It was sad to see. T he tragedy of a life cut before their time. Ace laid at Bruce's feet, whining softly as the man took a moment to collect himself before standing.
Terry stood, staying behind him, just watching, as Bruce took great care in cleaning up the grave. Dusting dead leaves and dirt from it, taking care to brush away and polish any grime on the photo.
A young boy with a brace filled smile, green eyes twinkling against brown skin. Far too young to be buried there with no Wayne attached, but someone who was important enough to be buried in the family cemetery.
“Who was he?” Terry asks, at the risk of being nosy or Bruce flat out ignoring him. It wouldn’t be the first time if Bruce flat out ignored him. There was still so much it seemed that Terry didn't know about the man, while Bruce knew all there was about Terry.
For a moment he thinks Bruce isn't going to answer, but then he finally does in the softest voice Terry’s heard.
“My son.” a simple two words that cause Terry's stomach to drop.
Terry’s mouth opens and closes, like a fish gasping on land, and he lamely says the first thing that comes to mind.
“Fuck Bruce- I’m sorry.”
Bruce doesn't answer, and instead, finishes cleaning the grave. When he's done, he sits back down on the bench, with Terry and Ace at his side. They don't leave until the last, barely seen rays of the sun are gone, with the chirping of crickets echoing their goodbyes.
“I blame myself.” Bruce says, on the short drive back to the manor. Terry slows, just a fraction, so he can look over at the man next to him. There's no evidence of the grief Terry can hear in Bruce's voice. Just the same wrinkled stone face, his mouth set into a grim frown. There's an emotion Terry can never decipher hidden behind those ice blue eyes.
“Sometimes I ask myself, if I was there more, if I had been more supportive, if I put him first- maybe I wouldn't have lost him.”
It's strange to see Bruce like this. He knew the man mourned, deeply, terribly, but not like this. Knew how he mourned for his parents, how he regret what he had done to force Mr. Grayson, Barbara, Tim, so far away.
His dad had lost his older sister as a child, and Terry could remember his father talking to him about her once, when he was small. How different his grandparents were after he passing.
“Terry, if I’m hard on you, it’s because I’m scared for you.” His father said, after one of Terry’s outings, where he wasn’t home until early in the morning. “There’s no greater loss than it is to lose a child .”
“I’m sure you did all you could Bruce.” Terry wants to believe he did. Bruce is a hard ass, strict, he has high expectations, but he's more too. He supports Terry, he's hard on him because he cares, and Terry’s not sure if anyone been there for him as much as Bruce has.
The man shakes his head, eyes distant. Terry’s not sure if he’s lost in his memories, or thinking of a lecture.
“It was my fault .” Bruce presses, and his voice is different. Like he's holding back his emotions, a dam that he refuses to let break.
Terry has never heard him like that.
“Bruce I doubt it was-”
“The Joker killed him.” His mouth snaps shut, whatever he was about to say forgotten as his grip on the steering wheel tightened. He can think back to that terrible moment where Tim Drake became the Joker. The terrible laugh that echoed in his ears, the life and death and subsequent resurrection of a monster.
One of Bruce’s sons dead by that maniac, the other traumatized for the rest of his life.
Terry doesn't say anything, because what could he say? “Sorry you lost a child to a crazy clown?” or “Sorry your kid was traumatized and you lost another one terribly?”
So he says nothing, and Bruce keeps talking, and neither comment on the fact that Terry is no longer driving. Just the two of them sitting in the middle of an old dirt road, the Manor silhouetted by the moon.
“He had chased down his mother to Ethiopia. Run away from home. I should have realized something was wrong earlier- should have been there more-” Bruce takes a shaky breath in, and Terry wonders just how long he had been holding this in.
“I was able to find him and help him but- God, we found the Joker there and- his mother, she needed help. We split up. I told him to stay put. He didn’t listen, why didn’t he listen .”
The dam breaks, and it’s instinct in how Terry reaches over to wrap his arms around Bruce’s shoulders. It reminds him of how he would hug his mom, trying to support her when things were too hard.
“I failed Jason, I failed Tim, I shouldn’t have let them put on that damn suit- ” He grips Terry’s arm, and folds in on himself.
They stay like that, Bruce trying to collect himself, while Terry listens as he breaks.
Later that night, after patrol, after Bruce had excused himself and shuffled off to bed, content with keeping their talk glued to the car and lost in the past, Terry finds himself digging into Bruce’s files. The personal ones, the ones Bruce keeps locked with a password that Terry had Max dig in and find out for him.
Curiosity killed the cat, but it never said anything about the bat .
He keeps looking over his shoulder, like Bruce is going to appear behind him and yell at him, despite the man having retired an hour earlier.
It was surprising though, to learn of Jason when he’s never heard of the kid before. With no evidence of the boy or pictures around, but Terry could only imagine how painful it was. To lose your son, only to see evidence of him everywhere.
Digging into Jason’s file brings only more surprises. That no, there wasn’t two, but three Robins, Tim Drake coming into Bruce’s life not long after the boys death.
Terry could only imagine how hard that would be on the both of them. Bruce bringing a new kid into his life, so close after the death of his son, or Tim, both having to deal with Bruce in a grieving state, as well as filling Jason’s shoes.
How hard it must have been on both of them, after what happened to Tim, the reminder of Jason.
The more Terry reads, the more sick to his stomach he feels. Tortured, beaten close to death, only to die in an explosion and suffocating on smoke, while he waited for his father to come.
Maybe Bruce had wanted to send a message to Terry, on how dangerous this was. Or, more likely, he was just an old man, who had wanted to visit his son and let Terry more into his life.
The reason didn’t matter, not anymore.
A kid was still dead, his father, still grieving, and Terry, lost and confused and sad on Bruce’s behalf.
Ace makes a noise from where he laid next to Terry, and the teenager reaches over to scratch behind the dog's ear. He was grateful to his suit, keeping him slightly warm from the rain from patrol, and the natural cold of the cave. He wished it could keep him warm from the chill settled deep inside him.
“Come on Ace.” He says, and the dog follows behind him. He’ll stay at the manor tonight. Do something nice for Bruce in the morning, maybe take him to breakfast.
He pauses, next to a locked room on the upper floors of the house. The entire time he’s known Bruce it’s been locked away, not to be opened, and Terry can only imagine what memories it must bring.
What kind of kid was Jason? What did he enjoy doing, who would have grown up to become? Ultimately, it doesn’t matter, Jason didn’t live past fifteen. But Terry wants to imagine a happy kid, who loved life and loved Bruce. Terry wants to think he could have been another mentor, being able to teach him things Bruce or Dick refused to. That they could have been friends.
“Night Jason.” Terry says, tapping the wood of the door before making his way to his own room.
Rain beats against the headstones, while thunder cracks in the distance, lightning making shadows dance against the grey stone.
A boy beats against rotted wood, crying out for a father who can’t hear him. He claws against the ceiling, breaking through and digging himself out, through thick mud and rain.
He screams, when he has air, crying for someone, anyone , please, please, please.
He remembers pain, and fire, and heat, and then, for a moment, nothing. He was at peace, comfortable, until he woke up again hurting and scared.
“Dad-” he gasps out, and drags the rest of his body from the dirt.
Jason Todd stands for the first time in decades, and follows the lights in front of him to home .