Bruce hated this day. The day his second son died, only a few years passed now.
After a long night taking down criminals and assaulters, he was still unable to get rid of the memory from his mind. Even though Jason was alive and in Gotham again, it didn’t help relieve his pain of it. Joker had broken out of Arkham two weeks ago, which also didn’t help.
Jason had been ballistic and even more angry than he usually was that week, trying to chase Joker down on his own. Jason unfortunately had been the one to find him, but Tim had been following him, so he was there too. And to put it simply, it didn’t go well, at least until Bruce and the others showed up. No one has heard from Jason since he took off after the fight and no one wanted to follow, believing he would just been incredibly pissed with them for not letting Jason kill him. Except Alfred suggested that something else might be going on. Bruce wished he had listened.
Jason may be back in Gotham, but he refused to get close to the family, as if they might actually burn him if he did. Bruce understood the boy’s anger, distrust and caution towards the family, but he didn’t know how to help make it easier for him. Jason was so closed off. Beginning a week after Joker’s arrest, they’ve all tried contacting him, but no one’s heard from him. Even Red Hood hasn’t been seen. Bruce was worried and considering what day it was, so soon after fighting the Joker again, it just made it worse.
Bruce didn’t want to scare his son away by pushing his presence on him too much, but that didn’t mean he didn’t desperately want to check up on him. He figured Jason might still be angry with them, but he was becoming increasingly panicked that something worse was going on. But he was still afraid to get close and somehow hurt Jason more than he probably already was.
He sighed and tried not to think about it as he walked up the stairs to the manor. He glanced back once at Jason’s Robin suit, still memorialized in its case. No one wanted to take it down, though Bruce did take the plaque down which memorialized his sacrifice, as Jason wasn’t dead anymore and when Jason saw it, it just made him upset.
It was about 3 in the morning and he knew Alfred would be sleeping. He’s had a rough day, trying to get in contact with Jason too. But it was harder for him, because out of everyone in the family, Jason had nothing to blame Alfred for, and he was probably the only one Jason actually felt comfortable and not angry around. Alfred cherished that relationship.
Bruce climbed upstairs and towards his room. He took his pain meds and sleep pills then just laid down in bed. He struggled to fall asleep until the pills took effect. Despite those helping him fall asleep, they did nothing to stop the nightmares that came all too quick.
Bruce forced himself awake towards the end of the dream, trying to get rid of the feeling of holding his son’s dead body in his arms, smelling the smoke, ash and burning flesh in his nose. Jason was completely limp, pale and broken. Not a hint of a heartbeat or a breath. It was one of the worst days of Bruce’s life.
He sat up slowly, fear racing through him. He was still feeling the pain of losing Jason, as if he’d just lost him yesterday. He turned to his nightstand and picked up his phone. It was only 5 o’clock.
Without really thinking about it, Bruce dialed Jason’s number and called him. Unsurprisingly, Jason didn’t pick up. He was scared again, like he was then. He needed to find Jason and see him, to make sure he was okay. Bruce just needed to see him.
He went to the cave and it only took a minute to put on his suit. The drive to Jason’s apartment took about 15 minutes in the batmobile. He tried to keep his panic down as he went but he couldn’t help but feel like something was really wrong. He parked a small block away in an alley and then grappled up and ran across the rooftops till he reached the one adjacent to Jason’s.
There were no lights on but there was enough street light to just see in. In the bedroom, the bed was empty, but the covers were in complete disarray, half on the floor and the pillows scattered around the room. There were beer cans all over the floor too. Bruce turned to the living room. There were beer cans and liquor bottles littering the whole space. And there were multiple pill bottles on the coffee table beside the couch, some spilling over.
Bruce felt his pulse pick up when he saw Jason. He was laying on the couch, appearing asleep but definitely not sleeping peacefully. He was curled in on himself and flinching every couple seconds and kicking his feet, like he was being hit with something.
Bruce watched him for a moment and then realized that Jason was reliving his final moments, under a crowbar, just like Bruce had relived finding his dead body tonight.
He had to help him. He couldn’t stand to let his son go through that again.
Bruce grappled across the street and landed on the fire escape. He paused for a moment and just listened as he watched Jason flinch and shake on the couch. He was whimpering and mumbling too, and Bruce could just make out some words.
Jason flinched again and mumbled, “No…… ‘ruce… so…sorry.”
Bruce’s heart dropped a little hearing that, learning that in Jason’s last moment he apologized to him, though in Bruce’s mind, Jason had nothing to apologize for.
Bruce quickly picked the lock and began to open the window but froze as Jason suddenly screamed.
Jason turned and arched his back up, screaming loudly in horror and pain. The moment he stopped, he flinched hard, his eyes shooting open. He fell off the couch to the floor, scrambling to grab a gun a foot away. He turned around frantically, looking scared out of his mind. He then hurried to a wall corner and curled in on himself, shaking hard. He put his head on his knees and put his hands on his head, still gripping the gun tightly.
Bruce continued to watch sadly and waited until his son calmed down some, so as not to freak him out even more. But of course, Jason sensed him first.
Jason’s head shot up and he quickly aimed the gun at the window. His eyes were wide as he stared in Bruce’s direction. He looked terrified and utterly exhausted, like he hasn’t slept in days. He was also sickly pale and his chest was rising and falling quickly.
Bruce slowly opened the window all the way and then climbed inside the apartment, holding his hands up so Jason would know he wasn’t going to hurt him.
He pulled his cowl down but kept his hands up as he slowly approached Jason. “Hey Jaylad, it’s just me. It’s Bruce.”
Jason kept staring at him but very slowly recognition dawned on his face and the fear drained a little, revealing the vulnerability of the state he was in. But then a wall rose and hid the fragileness.
“Bruce?” Jason rasped out, his voice raw. Bruce nodded gently and Jason lowered the gun, but he didn’t put it down. “What are you doing here?” Using his hands against the wall behind him, he shakily pushed himself to his feet, breathing deeply and tensing at Bruce’s movements as he neared him.
Bruce lowered his hands and replied quietly, “I came to check on you.”
Jason scoffed, “Yeah right. Probably just here to make sure I haven’t killed anyone.” He tried to walk away from him, sliding a hand along the wall as he went.
Bruce didn’t move. “No one has heard from you in over a week. We were worried about you. Alfred especially.”
Jason glared at him, “So you’re only here on Alfred’s orders, huh? Well, why don’t you just fuck off and tell Al I’m fine.”
Bruce slowly approached Jason, actually worried he might fall, he seemed in that bad of shape.
“No, Jason. I’m here because I care about you, and I’ve been worried too. I just want to make sure you’re okay.”
The glare didn’t fade, and Bruce realized that Jason truly didn’t believe him when he said that. His words cemented that as he spoke bitterly. “You’ve never cared about me enough to come check on me before, so why would you now? Because I died today 4 years ago, so just a guilt ridden visit, that's why.”
Bruce’s heart ached at the truth of that statement, just that he has never come to check on him before, not personally. He came today partly because of what day it was, so Jason wasn’t wrong. “No, Jason-”
Jason sighed, sounding defeated, “Just go away Bruce. I’m not your charity case anymore.” Jason tried to push off the wall then, but his legs gave out and he started to collapse, dropping the gun to the floor as he fell.
Bruce rushed over and caught him. Jason sneered and shoved him away, but in his condition it didn’t move Bruce that much.
“I don’t need… your help. So save me the pity… I’m fine. Just fuck off,” Jason said, more out of breath now. Jason pulled out of his grasp, took a step away and collapsed again.
Bruce caught him and held him stronger. “No, I won't, Jason. You do need help. You’re sick and I want to help you. I’m not going anywhere.”
Jason didn’t resist that time and actually started to go limp in Bruce’s arms.
“Why?” Jason asked quietly, sounding very broken and hopeless.
Bruce pulled Jason closer and looked him in the eyes. “Because you’re my son, Jason.”
Jason just looked back, his eyes revealing the tired and brokenness too. And then his eyes rolled back into his head as he passed out, going totally limp.
Bruce picked him up and held his body in his arms. Bruce took a deep breath and blocked the flashback from surfacing. Jason was still breathing, and Bruce wouldn’t fail him again.
He carried Jason to his bed and gently placed him down. Jason was even more pale, sweating a lot and breathing hard still. Bruce felt his forehead and realized he had a fever. So not only was Jason sick mentally but also actually physically sick, likely from the total lack of self-care the past week.
Bruce removed his cape and cowl and then his outer armor and placed them on Jason’s dresser. He went to the bathroom and got a cold watered washcloth and placed it on Jason’s forehead. The sweatpants and t-shirt Jason was wearing looked like he’d been wearing it all week, without taking them off. He definitely hasn’t showered either.
Bruce changed Jason’s clothes and then gently covered him in blankets from the closet. While Jason was sleeping, Bruce cleaned. By the look of his kitchen, fridge and trash, Jason hasn’t eaten anything in a while. He picked up all the beer cans and liquor bottles which amounted to well over 50 and put them in trash bags. He then cleaned up the pills on the coffee table; there was a bottle for sleeping, nightmares, pain, anxiety, and depression and they were each prescribed under different names.
Bruce had no idea that Jason was suffering so much. He just seemed so angry with them Bruce didn’t even think more could be going on underneath besides the anger and feelings of frustration and hate.
With a sad, guilt ridden sigh, Bruce organized the pills into the proper bottles and then lined them up on the kitchen counter. He left the full trash bags by the door. After making the living space look decent, he returned to Jason’s bedroom to find him in the same state, except now he was shaking and sweating even more, possibly already having another nightmare.
Bruce didn’t just stand there this time. He walked over and climbed onto the bed, then pulled Jason to him, trying to warm and comfort him. He may have imagined it, but he thought he felt Jason move closer, pressing his head closer to Bruce’s chest. Bruce hugged him tighter and rubbed his back, hoping he would relax and feel safer than he has in a long time. And hopefully sleep more peacefully.
Bruce gently kissed the top of his head, then placed his chin there. “Not anymore Jason. I swear. I’m going to be here and I’m going to help you heal, no matter what it takes or how long it takes. I promise, I’ll be here.”