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Of Your Own Making

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The events surrounding Jason’s death and resurrection were… fuzzy, to say the least. Nothing was really certain, his mind was a maze with no real exit. He was lost there, just wandering on lingering thoughts that left as quickly as they came.

The lies he had been told by Tali- no Ra’s, had only proved to make him more confused, more angry. Fueled by a want for revenge.

None of it really meant anything in the end. 

Joker was dead, but not by Bruce’s hand. Bruce was old, and it was some other kid dressed in the suit.

Jason had missed the entirety of what should have been his life. He died, and came back too late.

It didn’t matter, not really.

.

Gotham wasn’t like how he remembered it. It was like walking into a new world, somewhere Jason would have only read about in his books when he was little. The new futuristic Gotham was built upon the bones of the old city. Highways and skyscrapers built over the old city. 

It painted a pretty picture, Jason had to admit. But despite the pretty outlook, it was still the same Gotham, still rotten and corrupt as it had been forty years prior.

It made sense that Jason preferred to stay near the roots of Gotham, so to speak.

The apartment was still the same as it had been all those years earlier, if not a bit more updated. Not many people stayed in the east side of Gotham’s ”Historical” District, and Jason preferred it like that.

The lack of people made it easier for Jason to work, and the quiet and seclusion made him feel like he was less likely to hurt someone.

Didn’t stop some people from trying to seek him out.

The new Batman had a habit of leaving little notes in his apartment while he was out. Batman didn’t stop Jason from his work, but he also showed up at inopportune times and was just a general nuisance.

(Jason did owe him though. Without the kid’s interference, Jason would have probably become a vessel for Ra’s Al Ghul by now. It wasn’t a pleasant thought.)

Jason

Boss wanted me to drop off some left overs. You should come by for dinner some time.

TM 

He crushed the note in his hands, and threw it in the direction of the garbage. He didn’t need Bruce looking out for him, or getting his errand boy to check up on him.

That’s how he was stuck in this mess in the first place. He trusted Bruce, and his mother, and he died in return. He trusted someone who wasn’t who they said they were, and he was burned in return.

He was better off on his own.

.

In those early days, after crawling out from his grave, and his short time on the street, after Talia rescued him, she would sit with him in his brain dead state. She’d hold his hand, whisper quietly to him when he was lost in his own mind, read to him when he was almost lucid enough to understand.

She was there, through the early pit madness, when she had dunked him in the waters of the Lazarus Pit. 

Slowly but surely, she earned his trust, and she had it, irrevocably. 

He spent three years, training and growing at her side, there was a bond between them. He thought…

He’s not sure what he thought.

“When you get your revenge, what will you do?” She had asked him, days before he was to leave for Gotham. They were sitting on the veranda, overlooking the sea. 

He could only shrug in response. It wasn’t like he hadn’t given any thought to it but… it all just seemed so. Empty. Devoid of any purpose. He had his own emptiness, settled deep in his belly. He didn’t like to think about it, that maybe, somehow, he had lost a part of himself when he had gone into the pit. Or that he had come back wrong.

“I don’t know.” It wasn’t any use in lying to Talia, should would have seen right past it. The tea they drank was bitter on his tongue, but it was ok. He had, like most things in this new life, grown used to it. He did miss Alfred’s brews though.

Talia laid her hand on his, a soft smile on her face. She seemed to always have those reserved for him, like she was more at peace, without her father around.

“Why not return here, to me? You could stay at my side Jason.” He swallowed, thickly. She only gave his hand a soft squeeze, another smile as he looked at her. “We could be a family.”

And wasn’t that was Jason wanted the most.

.

It wasn’t real though. Of course it wasn’t. 

Everything in his life ended up being a lie, or a trick, a step in someone’s plan to wreak havoc and Jason was just the unfortunate accomplice in that.

The plan had been to get Bruce, to have him face his worst mistake and make him see that he was wrong . That his methods did not work, and that his actions had consequences. Why had Jason come back, if not to show Bruce that he was wrong?

Jason didn’t plan on the Batfake being better than he thought.

Everything happened in a blur. Talia wasn’t really Talia. Just Ra’s in disguise, using Jason for his own means. If he couldn’t have his Detective, he’d use Jason instead. 

In the end the three of them had escaped the compound that had become Jason’s home, as it tore down around Ra’s, an ending of his own making.

“Jason-” It was Batfake. He hovered behind Jason as they watched what remained of Jason’s world crumble among fire and smoke. Bruce was silent where he stood, watching Jason, an emotion on his face he couldn’t place.

His entire world was falling apart, and Bruce was just watching. 

“Get away from me. ” He shoved past him, the helmet he had carefully made abandoned in the dirt. Jason had died, lost everything, only to return to a home that wasn’t his anymore, forty years into a future he didn’t know.

Neither Batfake or Bruce stop him, and Jason’s not sure if he wishes they would.

( He doesn’t see Bruce collapsing to his knees when Jason’s gone, choked back sobs of his name, over and over and over-

Terry stays with him, supporting him. Jason’s a mystery, but he means the world to Bruce. The boy he lost, a little older, a little angrier, a lot sadder. 

He stays there in the dirt, watching the final embers die down for what seems like hours, and then, he helps Bruce to the Batwing. He supports his mentor, carries his weight when it’s too much for Bruce to bear.

Jason, Terry thinks, needs time. But he also needs support. 

He needs a family again.)

.

Jason grieves.

He grieves the loss of what could have been, what almost was. The fact that it wasn’t Talia, not really, just a ruse to get Jason to trust Ra’s.

He grieves for Talia, for the woman he never really knew, who is lost to time and her fathers schemes. 

Jason had never been religious, not really. When he was very small, his mother took him to the church that was a few blocks down from their apartment. It stopped, when things got very bad, but when he was homeless and on his own, it was a place of comfort. 

Father Finnegan would let Jason sleep there when it was too cold on the streets, and had left him with warm food and some money when he could manage.

Even now, forty years later, it’s still there. 

If someone asked him, he’d say God wasn’t real, but he still offers a prayer to his mother, Talia, the unfairness of it all.

He’s not sure who he’s quite praying to, or if anyone’s listening, but it feels right.

A stone statue of Mary watches him where he kneels, it's poetic in a way. He hopes that if she is real, she’s looking out for them. 

It’s chilly when he finally leaves the tabernacle. The early spring chill bites at his cheeks, and while most of Historical Gotham is dirty and almost run down, he’s glad to see at least some of the historical district is kept clean.

The streets are just like how he remembered as a kid, and while the stores are updated, and there’s been some tech upgrades replacing the old, it’s mostly the same. 

The streets are familiar, and he’s lost in memories, of his hand in his mom’s when things weren’t so terrible, when-

“Hey, Jason.”

It’s a kid he’s never seen before in his life. He’s a head shorter than Jason, dark hair and striking ice blue eyes. He looks like a carbon copy of Bruce, despite some minor differences.

Batfake looks at home with a smile on his face, hands tucked into his jacket pockets, standing in the streets of Jason’s childhood. Jason’s a little pissed at himself for not realizing that he was being followed.

“Fuck off.” His teeth grit together, pushing past Batfake. He hopes that if he’s hostile and openly angry, that the kid would get the hint. He does not.

“Aw c’mon man-” Batfake jogs to keep up with him, an easy grin on his face. “You don’t have to be like that.”

“You’re not that bright are you?” He keep looking stubbornly ahead. It’s been weeks since his world crashed down around him, since Bruce and Batfake started keeping tabs on him.

(Jason’s confident that, if he really wanted to, he could lose them, but somewhere deep inside he doesn’t really want to.)

“That’s what most people say, yeah.” He ends up at Jason’s pace, and if anyone were to look, they’d probably look like two friends just catching up.

“Well then let me make this clear.” He jabs a finger in the other teens chest, scowling. “Leave. Me. Alone.”

“You know, I would.” He says, keeping a steady pace with Jason’s jog across the road. “If it looked like you wanted to be left alone.” 

It throws Jason off enough that he stops, turning to look at him.

“What?”

“I know what it’s like to push everyone away, because you’re hurt, and sad. But if you really wanted to be alone, you would be gone by now.” It’s annoying how accurate that it, but Jason just grits his teeth in response. 

“Listen, I’m sure you’re busy,” he says, and then pushes a piece of paper into Jason’s hands. “But- if you ever decide you want some company, that’s my number. We can hang or, I dunno,” He shrugs, and suddenly looks a lot more nervous than he did this entire conversation. “Do something. My girlfriend just uh, dumped me so. I’m free. If you want.”

They’re both quiet, and then he coughs, clearing his throat. “Uh anyways. Good talk. I gotta get my brother. See ya Jason.” Batfake leaves him with a wave, and jogs down the sidewalk until Jason can’t see him anymore.

He looks at the note in his hand, the number scrawled in messy script, same as the notes, and under, Terry McGinnis ;) .

He crumples it, ready to toss it on the street, before shoving it in his pocket.

He doesn’t want to litter, is what he tells himself, but he finds himself putting the number into his phone when he reaches his apartment again, feeling a little lighter than when he left.

.

Despite Jason’s entire, well, everything, falling around him, he kept his patrol route. Just because he was having a crisis didn’t mean that crime stopped, and there were still bad men who do bad things.

Red Hood doesn’t stop because Jason's having a rough life. No one else cared about old Gotham other than Jason.

Though, it was tough on his own.

He hissed, his palm pressed into his side. While real bullets were mostly a thing of the past, the plasma and laser ammo that replaced them were just as painful. 

The shot had gone right through his hip, a burning hole left in its wake. While any other time Jason would prefer to go home and lick his wounds alone, it wasn’t possible this time. He was just too far, and more than likely to bleed out before he got there.

“Fuck,” He cursed to himself. Inside his helmet, his HUD displayed numbers he could call, and really there was only one that he could say he trusted enough to help him.

Terry was an unknown of sorts, but also the closest unknown who could help him.

Jason sagged against the wall, slowly slipping down until he was sitting. He could feel the blood, squishy between his fingers where his hands slipped on his hip.

For a moment, Jason wasn’t sure he’d answer. Maybe ignoring the other teen so often and acting hostile to him finally made him realize that he was wasting his time, maybe Jason would die again, here on this rooftop as he slowly bled out, he wouldn’t get to see Bruce again, he wouldn't-

“Hello?” There he was. Jason swallowed thickly, blinking back the wetness in his eyes. He took in a shaky breath, steadying himself before he spoke.

“I need some help,” Jason didn’t realize how much it hurt to talk, how rough his voice sounded. It makes enough sense, there was no one for him to talk to.

“I’ll be right there Jason.” It’s comforting to have that voice in his ear, someone near him. “I’ve got your signal, just hang in there okay-

“Don’t hang up.” Jason says, before Terry has a chance to go. If he does die, he doesn’t want to be alone, not again. 

Terry’s silent for a moment, and for one terrifying second he thinks that he has, before Terry breathes out. “‘Course not man. I’m right here.”

It helps to settle him, and Jason relaxes slightly. “I should be there in ten minutes.” Terry says, and the small update helps to calm Jason a little more. Maybe he’s going a little woozy from blood loss, or maybe it’s been too long since he actually spoke to someone.

Terry is true to his word. He makes small talk while on his way, filling the silence. He only demands Jason to answer back once in a while, to let Terry know he’s okay.

It’s been a while since anyone’s cared like that. If he does die, at least someone knows. Terry gets there, sometime between him rambling about his brother and the story of how he became Batman. The last thing he sees before passing out is the red glow of the bat. He came, Jason thinks, a smile on his face before the darkness takes him.

.

He wakes up, eventually. Jason’s side aches and he’s dizzy when he stands, but he’s whole and semi-okay.

He vaguely remembers calling for the Batfake when he was in trouble, and that he had actually come for him.

His apartment it, however, empty when he looks around. There is though a note, posted on his fridge.

J

Had to go to school, will come back later. Give Bruce a call if you can, was worried.

-T

He’s not going to call Bruce, but the note makes a warmth settle in his gut anyways. There’s a smile coming to his face, and when he checks the fridge, there’s orange juice and another note about cookies waiting for him.

.

He starts texting Terry more. Once, every few days. Jason tells himself that it’s just to keep up with him, but it’s nice to have someone to talk to. To take his mind off not-Talia and that he’s essentially a zombie lost in time. 

They’re not friends, but it's close. 

.

“Let’s hang out.” Terry says one night. They’re both perched on the edge of an old apartment building in old Gotham, their legs hanging over the side while they have a late night dinner. Terry has started a habit of meeting Jason once a week during patrol, food in hand. It’s nice.

Jason just gives him a look, and Terry rolls his eyes, ever the dramatic, and gives his arm a shove. 

“If you’re not ‘working’,” Terry does air quotes, half a sandwich in his mouth as he speaks. “You’re holed up in your apartment all day. C’mon man, you’re eighteen. Get out and live a little.”

“I’m fine.” Jason says, giving him a much harder shove back.

Terry winces, rubbing at his arm, nudges him back. 

“I mean it! Me and my friend Max are going to the movies tomorrow- why don’t you come?” Terry looks hopeful, bright eyed and smiling. It’s tempting, but that’s the sort of thing normal people do. Jason doesn’t really deserve that.

“Nah-” he says. “I got a case to work on anyways.” he stands, helmet under his arms, and ducks out before terry can say otherwise.

Terry shows up the next day anyways. There’s a girl with him who Jason can only guess is Max, scowling and generally just looking unexcited. Jason should be more offended that Terry just lets the both of them in. He’s not.

“This place is a dump Ter.” She says, arms crossed. She stands out, with her bright yellow shirt, and her neon pink hair. She’s pretty.

“Aw, don’t be rude Max.” Terry says, making himself at home on Jason’s kitchen counter. Max doesn’t hear Jason walk up behind her.

“Yeah,” he says, “Don’t be rude Max.”

The poor girl yells, jumping up and reaching towards Terry. When she turns around, she’s scowling, but the look on her face just makes her want to laugh. 

“I’d be mad.” She says, and then crosses her arms, “If you weren’t so cute.” She smiles, and Terry laughs from where he sits.

The way his face flushes is new, and Jason shoves his hands in his pockets, just to do something with them. “I guess I’m lucky I’m cute then,” He says, and his own words surprise him. “I’m Jason.”

“Max.” She says, and then gives him a more mischievous smile. “Or, you could call me Oracle. Since, y’know, secret ID’s and stuff, right?”

“Yeah yeah- wait what.”

“She knows.” Terry pushes himself off the counter, and instead goes to route through his fridge. “She found out my secret in a pretty clever way.”

“Well it’s not like it was hard.” 

“You wrote an entire script to narrow down who Batman was and you hack government websites in your free time. You’re clever.” Jason feels out of place with their banter, but he is impressed. It takes real skill to do something like that.

“Well yeah, I never said I wasn’t clever. Just that it wasn’t hard McGinnis.” She rolls her eyes, and looks back to Jason.

“Terry told me a little about you. I figured it’d help if we got to know each other, y’know, if you needed help again.” 

The assumption makes Jason want to be mad, but… It’s been some time since he’s actually had company that wasn’t Terry. Had someone else who cared. It… feels good.

His throat feels tight, and it hurts when he swallows, but he manages to choke out a small thank you. Max smiles, and lays a gentle hand on his arm. 

“Any time Jason.”

Their visit is unwanted, at first, but when Terry calls for them to leave and go to the movies, Jason goes with them.

.

It’s a small shift. He’s not as focused on being just Red Hood any longer. Suddenly, Jason is someone who he can be again. It doesn’t hurt to think about what could have been and what he lost.

For the first time Jason has friends that are really, truly, his. 

“So…” Max props her feet up into Jason’s lap. The mall is busy around them, the sound of other people just living comforting in a way Jason can’t explain. The beginning of summer bringing the people of Gotham out and enjoying the weather. “School will be out in a few weeks. We need to do something.”

“Like what.” Terry’s slouched in his seat, eyes closed. He had a rough night, had and Jason had ended up coming to his rescue when Max frantically contacted him.

He’s a little worse for wear, but alive.

“I dunno, maybe we should do a beach trip. I bet Mr.Wayne wouldn’t mind letting you go for a few days.” Max hums. It’d been a long time since Jason had been to the beach. 

“Nah, hate the sand. What about Great Adventure?” 

“Those roller coasters are a death trap Ter.”

“They still hold up okay enough.”

Max huffs, and looks to Jason. She likes him, likes that they can both gang up on Terry, but he also drives her crazy with the stunts he pulls. “What about you jay, what do you wanna do this summer.”

“What?”

“What do you want to do during the summer? Maybe we can do something for your birthday, that’s in August right?”

He doesn’t want to think about his birthday. This time last year, he was training to hurt Bruce. Planning to hurt the people close to him, who were now his friends of a sort.

“I don’t-” 

“Oh shit-”

“Jason-?”

He’s cut off by Terry and another stranger speaking over him. Max just looked confused, as Terry sits up, wincing as he does so.

The stranger who stands a few feet away is older, grey streaks in his once dark hair. The face is older, a little more scarred, missing a few crucial things, but Jason would always recognize his big brother.

“Jason, is that really you.”

He’s not breathing, he’s frozen. He never expected to see Dick. He didn’t want to see Dick. His brother- He didn’t hate Dick for not being there, but he did. The arguments, the fights. The time they spent with one another was few and far between. 

“Jason it’s okay.” Max is reaching over, and Dick’s just marching towards them. Terry’s on his feet, moving towards Dick, and Jason moves on instinct. He’s up and out of his chair, running off and away from Terry and Max and Dick. He’s not sure why he does it, but it’s just all too much.

He has to go.

.

Bruce’s office is tense. Dick is furious where he paces, and Terry just watches him from where he sits. Max sits next to him, looking just as uncomfortable as he feels.

“Why didn’t you tell me.” Dick’s speaking to Bruce, staring at him. He’s hurt, Terry knows. Bruce is too.

“It wasn’t my place to say-”

“Fuck that Bruce! He’s my brother!” Max takes a deep breath in, wincing at the shout. Dick looks to them, and Terry’s thankful that the patented ‘dad’ glare has never worked on him.

“And you- Terry why didn’t you tell me?” Dick sounds more hurt than anything, and it just really is another knife in the heart.

“Do you know how long it took me to get him to trust me?” Terry asks. Bruce is silent. 

“You don’t understand Terry he’s family -” 

“And he’s our friend!” He’s out of his seat, and while Dick has a few inches on him, Terry’s never been one to back down. “I don’t care if he’s family! He lost everything!” 

They didn’t talk about how Ra’s betrayal must have affected Jason, but Terry had an idea. Before he wormed his way in, Jason had looked a lot… sadder than how he was now.

“He. I don’t know who or what he thought Ra’s was to him, but it… it hurt him. He’s lost a lot, you know. I’m just trying to give him a chance to live his life.”

“I think he’s a lot more different to the brother you lost.” Max finally says. Her arms are crossed and she’s staring at her feet. “He’s so quiet. I think he’s just waiting to get hurt again.”

Dick sighed, finally letting himself fall into one of the empty chairs and sags in it. “Why would he run though, I don’t understand.”

“I don’t think he understands either.”

.

Jason’s not the boy who died. He’s fairly certain he came back wrong.

He had once been full of life, and laughter, and love. He pushed himself with his own sense of right and justice.

While he still had his own moral compass, he was different. Trusting was hard. He still missed Talia. He was angry all the time, and tired. 

He was much more quieter now than he ever used to be. It was probably the absence of any people in his life. He kept to himself. He didn’t want… he was scared, maybe, to be hurt and used again. 

He misses having people though. Missed talking with Bruce, who had been so easy to talk to at once point. Terry and Max were the closest he got to having that with again.

Why did he run?

His ceiling offered no answers for him where he laid. 

Did he ruin things? Why did he run, why did he run?

.

Terry comes by a few days later.

“Swamped with work stuff, I’m sorry I wasn’t here earlier.” He says when Jason comes into the room. He’s not surprised that Terry let himself in, making himself comfortable on Jason’s couch. Jason lets himself fall next to Terry, sinking into the couch. 

There’s food on the coffee table, take out brought by Terry, and Jason’s not sure when he really ate last. Too focused on his work and lost in his own mind.

“Sorry.” Jason says, and terry bumps his shoulder, an easy smile on his face. 

“It’s fine Jay.” Terry says, and Jason knows he understands. “You don’t have to worry about it.”

It’s easy, being friends with Terry. Simple in a way that other things were not. He’s grateful for that.

.

They don’t bring up Dick, and he’s fine with that. Jason’s not too sure how he feels about his once brother and father. If he wants to see them again or not. Terry wants him to, Jason knows, but he doesn’t push it. Max it seems, is always on his side.

“Have you thought about getting your GED Jay?” Max asks. It’s just the two of them, sitting in a local cafe Max likes. It’s pretty, with wide open windows, letting the sun shine through. It’s a busy day, the school year is winding down to a close. 

It’s been months since he came to Gotham again.

“I dunno, why?” 

“I mean, you never got a chance to finish right? I bet if you wanted to, you could graduate with me and Terry next year.”

He didn’t think about that. Graduating. Staying with his friends. It is… an option that he didn’t realize was open to him.

“Just think about it.” Max says, knocking her foot into his.

.

Jason thinks about Bruce often. 

When he was small, Bruce was his entire world. Strong, brave, it felt like Bruce was immortal. He was, of course, wrong.

He’s seen the pictures, and Terry’s talked about how he helps take care of Bruce more than once.

His face is wrinkled, he walks with a cane. His eyes aren’t as sharp as they used to be.

It hurts. It’s his dad, but it also isn’t. He doesn’t know this older Bruce, doesn’t know how to act with him.

When he was with- when he was training, he focused on how Bruce never avenged him, that he replaced him. 

It’s hard to be angry with him now, when he hears just how lonely Bruce was. All of his anger had been drained away, nothing to replace it. He’s still hard on criminals, especially the ones who deserve it, but to keep him going? 

It’s numb, in the center of his everything. 

Maybe that’s why he let Max and terry in so easily. It’s nice, not being alone. To have someone to care about him and care for in return. 

Just the three of them, their trio. 

They make thinking of Bruce hurt less.

.

He’s about to turn in when his comm pings. It’s an alert message, flashing in the center of his helmets HUD. Which is strange. Max usually just contacts him directly in an emergency, this is unusual.

“Hood.” He says, accessing the comm line.

The other line is silent, for a moment and then-

Jason .”

It’s not Max that answers.

Bruce still sounds the same. Back when he still had his plan in motion, along with Ra’s, he was too angry when he confronted Bruce. He refused to let himself be hurt by hearing the man's voice.

Now, it knocks the breath out of him.

“What the fuck do you want-” he’s surprised he can still find it in himself to be angry. It still hurts, the fact that he didn’t do anything about the Joker, even when Tim was hurt. That he let someone else take the Robin name when Jason was dead and buried-

I need your help. ” Bruce says. The comm makes his voice sound static, and it grinds on Jason’s nerves.

“Yeah well you have Terry, that’s what he’s there for right? Your little errand boy-”

Terry’s in trouble Jason .” It’s like a punch to the gut. He didn’t realize-

“Why didn’t Max call me then? She’s usually-”

Maxine is in trouble too. ” His fingers twitch, and he wants to punch something. The only two people he can reliably stand, and they’re both in trouble. 

I know how you think of me, ” Bruce continues, and all Jason just wants is quiet. “ I promise, help me, and I won’t bother you again. ” He steps onto the ledge of one of the buildings, fires off his grapple. 

“I would have gone for them whether you asked me or not Old Man.” It’s the most Jason’s sounded like himself since he’s come back, he thinks. Bruce doesn’t say anything, but Jason can hear his sigh of relief.

With Bruce’s directions, and the tracker in Terry’s suit, it’s not hard to find where they are. Locked in some underground subway tunnels, Kobra cultists guarding them. Terry looks out of it, but Max is relatively unharmed. 

There’s a lizard man in front of her, the only one Jason can assume is the leader. 

Stepping out of the shadows, Jason un-holsters his guns, shooting once into the air to get their attention.

“While this is all well and good,” He says, his voice modified by the helmet. “I’m gonna ask you to let them go.”

“Don’t you know who I am?” The leader speaks with a hiss, reminiscent of a snake, and Jason wants to groan.

“Buddy, if I had a dollar for every time some goon asked me that, I’d be rich.”

The fight happens quickly, and Jason only has enough time to shoot Max and Terry’s bounds off before grabbing them and taking off. It’s not too long until they’re hiding out on a rooftop, watching the Kobra goons run past.

“That was too close.” Max breathes a sigh of relief, sagging against Jason. Terry is still out, and Jason wants to get him somewhere to look over him, fast.

“Mind telling me what that was about?” he asks her, and she shrugs.

“The leader is obsessed with me. I thought he was-” She shakes herself out of it, and instead, focuses on their friend. “Never mind, we need to get him help.”

She removes the cowl, and Jason winces. Terry’s face is black and blue, and he can feel a lump growing on the back of his head.

“Help me get him to the cave?” Max asks, and he can’t find it in himself to say no.

.

Max was able to call the Batwing to take them to the cave, and Jason was surprised she knew enough to pilot it. 

It feels like it happens all too quickly, the trip, supporting Terry’s head and keeps him away and lucid enough. Dick meets them there, and he gives Jason a look Jason can’t describe as he hands Terry over to him.

It’s… a lot.

The cave is just like Jason had remembered, cold and damp, with the faint sounds of bats and water all around him. Bruce looks sad when he looks at Jason, and Max ends up dragging him upstairs.

It’s… emptier, than he remembered. Sheets covering most of the furniture, dust everywhere. He’s not sure where Max found the change of clothes for him, but he’s happy to get changed from his uniform into some sweats and a t-shirt.

“Tea.” It’s more of a statement than a question, but Jason nods anyway.  

He almost chokes while drinking it. It’s familiar, one of Alfred’s blends. Something that had probably been sitting in the cupboard for years, but it tastes all the same. 

He kind of wants to cry.

“Oh Jason-” Max says, and she takes his hand in hers. “It’ll be alright.”

.

“He’ll be okay.” Bruce says, two hours later. “Kobra still needs to be dealt with.”

Jason is pent up with emotions, but he stays where he is. Max had fallen asleep on the couch next to him, and he feels this need to stay with her and keep her safe.

“I’ll do it.” He says, and Bruce nods, almost like he expected it. He moves Max just so, that she’s comfortably laying down. Bruce stays where he is, and he reminds Jason of a statue, ever vigilant. He moves to leave the room, get changed back into his gear when Bruce speaks.

“Jason I…” He waits, looking back at Bruce. He’s not sure if he’s eager to hear what he has to say, or if he’s just curious, but it feels like his heart is pounding in his chest.

“Be careful.”

Jason says nothing as he leaves.

.

Kobra’s easy to track down, and it takes the rest of the night, but they all end up tied together on the steps of the GCPD. 

Terry is okay. Max is okay. He left the manor before Dick could come back upstairs, and Bruce is.

Bruce is old. 

He means to go back to his apartment, but somehow he ends up at the manors steps just as the sun is coming up. The bell still sounds the same as the first time he heard it.

He wants to be mad, but he’s so tired of being mad. He’s lonely. He misses his family.

Bruce looks tired when he opens the door, his eyes widening just a fraction as he takes Jason in. He imagines he looks a mess, sweat and dirt clinging to his face.

“I-” He doesn’t give Bruce a chance to speak.

“I’m sorry.” He breathes out, and it’s like a weight lifts. “I’m sorry, I tried to hurt you. I’m sorry I didn’t listen, I’m sorry that I made you bury me.”

Bruce’s eyes shine in the morning light, his knuckles are white where they grip his cane.

“It wasn’t your fault, that you didn’t get to me in time. I never blamed you for that. I was. I was so mad that you didn’t do anything. I thought.” He doesn’t help the sob that forces its way out. “I thought you didn’t care. That’s what. Ra’s, he said. I’m sorry.”

For a moment he thinks Bruce might fall in on himself, but instead he grabs for Jason, pulling him close. He’s not as tall as he used to be, or maybe it's just that Jason had grown taller.

“You have nothing to be sorry about.” Bruce says. “I’m sorry I failed you Jay, that I wasn’t there when you needed me.”

Bruce is crying too, and Jason just clings to him harder. 

“Can I come home?” he sounds so broken when he speaks, like a little boy again. Bruce kisses his forehead, and wipes the tears away with his hands.

“Of course you can Jason.” Bruce says. “This was always your home.”

.

They have his birthday at the beach. 

His family, and his friends. They make a weekend out of it, staying at a beach house down the show. 

Despite all that had changed with the future, he’s glad Point Pleasant is still the same. He had old memories of him and Bruce and Alfred at the boardwalk. Bruce had let him win at about a dozen of boardwalk games, and that week was one of Jason’s favorites. 

Now, it’s Terry challenging him to games, and Max dragging him onto the rides. Dick acts more like a proud father than his older brother, forcing them all into photos. Enough to fill an album.

It’s something Jason never thought he’d get again. The past few months had been hard, but he was glad that he didn’t have to go through it alone.

He sits on the beach with Max and Terry, watching the reflection  of the sun go down in the waves. 

“I’m glad we’re friends.” Terry says, stretching himself out in the sand. 

“Me too.” Jason says, and he’s glad about how good it actually feels to be with them. How right.

Max nudges him, and points back to the boardwalk. “I think someone’s waiting for you.” She says with a smile, and he can see Bruce standing there.

The sand is cold between his toes, and waves when he’s close enough to Bruce. “What’s up old man.”

“Walk with me.” Bruce says, so he does. The boardwalk isn’t very crowded, and it’s nice, just being with his dad.

They’re both quiet, until- “Happy Birthday.” Bruce says suddenly, pressing something into Jason’s hands.

It’s an envelope, sealed, and Bruce motions for him to open it. 

“Bruce-” He’s at a loss for words.

“Jason Todd died over forty years ago.” Bruce’s voice is shaky as he speaks, but there's a smile on his face. “But, It’s not too far fetched for a long lost grandson to re-appear.”

Jason can just stare at the birth certificate, his mouth dry.

“Now you can finish high school with Terry and Maxine, if you wanted.”

“Really?” He sounds small, broken. Bruce just smiles.

“Of course Jason.”

It’s more than Jason could ask for, more than he deserved. All he can do is hug his father, let him know he’s happy with his actions rather than words.

Jason wouldn’t get his lost time back, but he had his future. It’s all he could ask for, and more than he deserved.