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It's Not Poetic

Chapter Text

There was something wrong with him; there had been something wrong with him for…months, years… Who knew.

But, even through the haze of gore and terror and giggles, he knew he wasn’t the only one; there was another and no one seemed to think to help him. They had, before… But now, now no one even mentioned him.

Now, they all wanted to touch Tim, and coddle Tim, and care for Tim. But no one mentioned Jason.

And Tim didn’t think that was right; so he fought down the vicious, vicious bubble in his chest and the fog in his head. He always kept a spare mask in his room, just in case of emergencies, and he couldn’t bring himself to go farther than the kitchen, let alone the cave where his dirtied cape was. So a mask and an oversized hoodie were his armor and off he went—out his window and into the city.

His skin was crawling, and his mind was melting, and there was an itch between his shoulders that had yet to go away; and while the city didn’t feel safe, while he didn’t feel safe even though he should, there was no reason not to, while everything seemed wrong he knew that Jason had been alone in this environment for so very long—and it wasn’t fair.

Someone had to tell him, and better he hear from family than the news that…

That Tim was a murderer. He picked up his pace; Jason shouldn’t be alone.

Tim shouldn’t have come alone; but Dick had that glaze over his eyes that showed how worried he really was, the bags under his eyes showing the sleepless nights. It would be cruel to drag Dick into this; Bruce…

Tim was a failure. And Damian was confused, probably wouldn’t have come without telling Dick or Bruce. And Alfred?

God, Tim was just a burden and a failure and a horrible person. He shivered and skipped from roof to roof; there was no reason to laugh but he wanted to because wasn’t it just so funny? So very funny that perfect little Timothy did the unspeakable.

Oh god, Jason.

It was raining and the roofs were slick, the streets near empty, and Jason’s safe house window was thrown wide open; everything screamed danger and wrong, but Tim had felt wrong for a while now. And he had no reason to be cautious anymore; there was nothing left to work for. He’d destroyed everything, so he stepped over the windowsill and into a puddle on the living room carpet.

The television was on, buzzing something mundanely, and an opened bottle of flat beer was set on the coffee table; there was, as stated before, a puddle under the window and Jason’s just barely visible on the counter in the kitchen next to that bright red hood.

“J…” he had to quiet down a chuckle; nothing was funny. Something was wrong. “Jason.”

There was no response besides the patter of rain outside; Tim wiped the back of his hand across his mask, flicking water droplets from his sight.

“Jason?” he called again and again there was no answer.

Well, obviously the living room and kitchen were empty, so that left the bedroom and its adjoining bathroom; so that’s where Tim stumbled towards. He rounded the coffee table clumsily, bumping against it and the beer fell to the carpet; he hoped it wouldn’t stain.

The bedroom door was ajar and creaked noisily into the stormy night when Tim pushed it open. “Jason?”

There was an immoveable lump under the bedsheets heaped high on the bed; the closer Tim stepped, the more he could see. There were pillows there too, and clothes. On the other side of the bed lay a smashed alarm clock, and the dresser had its drawers hanging half off the rungs.

Everything was a mess and Tim wanted to scratch at the back of his hand, break the skin and watch his blood join the chaos—it would be funny. It would be glorious, it would be everything perfect and horrible and ugly.

The lump moved; it was a subtle thing and Tim clicked his jaw shut against the laugh that had been wheezing out. He swallowed once, twice, three times and he felt sick. But there were teal colored eyes gazing vacantly at the bathroom door, out from the midst of the giant pile and Tim stepped subtly closer.

“Jason?” Those were Jason’s eyes, to an extent. “Jason, i—it’s Tim.”

There was no response and Tim came closer, finally coming to stand over Jason on the bed.

“Jason, I have…I have to tell you something… Heh…” Tim pressed a fist to his forehead and banged it repeatedly, chanting go away go away to the beat; the voice wouldn’t stop, the laughing and the wheezing and the gurgling on his own blood. “Jason.”

“He doesn’t die.” The voice was low and quiet, bland and emotionless. “He doesn’t…”

“I killed the Joker, Jason.”

The older boy shut his eyes and heaved out a sigh, bordering a sob, and tears started falling; but he was silent beyond that first noise, didn’t even shake with the tears. Just lay there, safe in his cocoon of cloth, hidden away from reality and everything harmful.

And Tim… Tim giggled. He giggled at his brother’s pain, he giggled at the unfairness of everything, he laughed and he chuckled and he giggled and he tittered on and on. Life was cruel and life was hurtful and wasn’t it just grand? Just perfect and glorious and bloody and scraping.

And he laughed at his own pain, the torture Joker had put him through, the venom still coursing through his veins, the fact he thought death would be better but before him lay a man that would say otherwise—that would say to die in a fire was not honorable or memorable, that it shouldn’t be coveted.

And then the giggles turned into sobs and Tim sank to the ground besides the bed; he pillowed his head on his arms wrested at Jason’s hip and he shook for the both of them. He wailed for innocence lost and for fleeting happiness.

And when that was spent, when his eyes were burning from the lack of tears and his throat was sore from his heartbroken screams, he pushed away with putty arms and watched his brother breath.

“Jason?”

There was no response, not even a twitch; Tim had a feeling there wouldn’t be for a while. He plucked Jason’s cell from the bedside and dialed the super secret, super secure line he memorized for years.

The voice that answered promised pain should a threat come, but also security that Tim needed. “Oracle; please state your identity as your number is unrecognized.”

When Tim opened his mouth, a tired croak came so he snapped his mouth shut and swallowed, and tried again. “Babs?”

“Tim? Oh god, Tim, where are you? Everyone’s going mental looking for you!” There was the clack of a keyboard. “Where are you? Are you hurt? I’m contacting B and N now, just hold on.”

“Babs?” How would he explain this? How could he explain that they were about to have two mental cases on their hands? That they needed to have patience and an open heart to bring them out of this, to piece them both back together? “Barbara, it’s Jason.”

The typing stopped, before resuming faster than before. “Did he hurt you? Where is he?”

“He’s…” What? How did he explain the limp being in front of him? How did he explain the tear tracks and the mess around them? “They need to hurry.”

“Tim, hang on; they’re headed your way, okay? Tim? Timothy, answer me!”

He set the phone down; he’d expended his energy, from the laughing and the laughing and the crying and the pain. He wanted to cry more, but instead he wiggled his way under the pile, felt the weight settle over him, and the heat of Jason besides him; he was burning, from the inside out, and Tim had a moment of irrational fear thinking the bed would catch fire.

He caught himself in a giggle, found he didn’t even have the energy to be disgusted with himself, and instead forced an arm around Jason so the lay chest to chest, as close as possible.

They weren’t okay right now; they wouldn’t be okay for a while. In fact, in that moment, Tim didn’t think he would ever be okay, but he wanted to believe it would get better.

He wanted to believe he would get better.

Chapter Text

Dick buzzed around a corner on a borrowed batcycle; Oracle had called, saying Tim had called her, had relayed everything she could, everything that might help him and Bruce be prepared.

She’d mentioned Jason and Dick hated himself for the momentary panic he felt, the momentary gnawing acidic hate at Jason’s stupid rivalry with everyone Bat-related. If Jason had been so cold hearted as to hurt Tim, after everything the boy had been through, after what the kid was dealing with now—then maybe Dick should just give up on his brother.

He obviously had given up on family a long time ago.

“Nightwing, do not engage until I arrive.”

He should have left the comm behind, if only so he wouldn’t have to deal with the coldhearted Batman trying to orchestrate how Dick should care for his brother; it didn’t matter, anyhow. Dick was done following instructions, was done taking orders on how to behave when it came to family; he loved his family, and he’d be damned if he lost another brother to that psychopath (or the psychopath’s damaged product).

If Todd had touched one hair on Tim’s head…

Dick didn’t want to think about it, so he didn’t; he revved the motorcycle, rounded the final corner, and skidded to a stop in front of Jason’s apartment building—his safehouse of the week, month, year, whatever. Dick couldn’t say.

He just wanted his little brother back.

He turned on the security features on the bike before scaling the fire escape to an open window; the rain had stopped a while ago, though the streets he had driven on and carpet inside the apartment were still soaked. Dick glanced about the quiet place, wondering why Jason would have kept Tim here for whatever heinous tortures he had planned; probably spouting nonsense about ‘stealing his right’ to murder the Joker.

In a twisted way, Dick wished it had been at Jason’s hands; Jason was tainted, and Tim? Tim was sweet, innocent, caring, warm-hearted; he didn’t deserve to have to deal with all of this. And Jason? Jason wouldn’t be any more broken than he was now if he had been the one to…

“Tim!” There’s no response, and Dick’s heart beat wildly in his chest, a caged animal wanting to break free and vandalize Gotham; it was only held back by years being trained in honor and hope and courage and good. Even if there was none left in the world. “Tim, answer me! Jason!”

There’s an unintelligible noise, from the bedroom, muffled and distant; so Dick followed the sound, ignoring the voice calling in his ear to stand down, and stepped into the bedroom. Everything was wrecked, there were belongings thrown all across the room—clothes and drawers and picture frames and bullets… Dick kept expecting blood, Tim’s blood, his brother’s blood spilled by his no-longer-brother.

The painful truth of Dick’s life; he tried. He tried to be hopeful and happy and the light in the dark, but it was an uphill battle where he was stuck at the bottom.

But there was no blood, and the heap on the bed made that muffled sound again, followed by a soft hissing that cut off into wheezing breaths—laughter, concealed laughter. Tim.

Dick reached forward, pushed the pile away as fast as he could, and whipped the blankets back; and there was Tim, relatively unharmed save for a scrape on his arm probably from his journey over. And there was Jason, too.

“Tim?”

But the boy didn’t answer, just kept his wild gaze trained on Jason, kept his arm limp around the other body, kept up the hissing (shushing? Dick couldn’t be sure) while Jason shook; Dick would like to say he understood right then and there, but he didn’t. His suspicions were still there, eating away at the back of his mind, that Jason was dangerous, Tim was vulnerable, and they needed to be separated immediately. That whatever game Jason was playing was sick and twisted and demented and everything Dick wanted to fight against.

So, as any big brother with a strong protective streak, he gripped Tim about the waist and hauled him away from the bed in a smooth motion, coming to lean against the wall by the bathroom door with a struggling Tim.

“Shh, shh, shh,” he murmured into the sweat soaked hair, petting the boy’s cheek and checking him over for injuries. “It’s okay, I’m here, you’re going to be okay; he can’t hurt you anymore… No one is going to hurt you, Tim.”

“Jaso—…” a hiccup and Tim clenched his eyes shut, pounding a fist against his forehead and letting out a quiet screech; Dick rocked.

They stayed there, Dick wrapped around his little brother, comforting and solid and grounding. Or so he hoped; he kept one eye on the limp form on the bed, expecting him to lunge any moment, to laugh a familiar maniacal laugh. He was a byproduct of Joker, and Tim was an unfortunate victim, and both were broken and it wasn’t fair. So Dick rocked, and waited.

And when Batman arrived, cape drooping off his shoulders and trailing on the ground, Dick stood and hurried to his side, Tim cradled to his chest in a promising embrace.

“We need to get T—Red Robin back to the cave. A can sedate him, and then we can deal with Hood; I don’t know what he’s done to RR, but we need to go back home. Now.”

But Batman didn’t move; instead, it appeared as if he was gazing back into the room, behind Dick, to the bed and the threatening body there.

“Batman, we need to go now.”

And Batman…

Batman nodded, took two steps into the room, and stopped. “Jason…”

Tim’s screech, forgotten in exchange of calming his breathing, returned and he reached out a clawed hand for his predecessor. “Jjjjaason…”

Batman turned to Dick with a firm nod. “Get him home.”

Dick didn’t have to be told twice; he headed for the fire escape, only sparing a glance back to see Batman’s cape flutter around the body on the bed, unhooked from broad shoulders, and a gauntleted hand press to creased brows of an unresponsive boy. The action was soft, gentle, coaxing in an almost feather like fashion.

Then… Then, it clicked, and Dick felt the caged animal in his chest turn on him, from beating Gotham to ripping at himself.

He deserved it.

Chapter Text

Jason had arrived at his safe house, near the outskirts of Gotham, shortly after one in the morning on a Tuesday; he’d returned from a four and a half week manhunt. Ever since the news broke of Joker’s breakout, Jason had been restless and hadn’t slowed down—especially once he got wind of the replacement going missing.

Barbara had tried to reassure him, when he’d called her demanding answers and information, that there could be other reasons for the boy’s disappearance; “Joker isn’t the only danger in this city, Jason”

“He’s the only one that matters.” The only one to have ever killed a Robin; Jason’s skin crawled, his ribs ached, his mind kept screaming at him to fight, fight, stay quiet, just hang on. But he knew…knew that had been years ago, that had been then, and now…now he had to make sure another Robin didn’t have those thoughts to deal with.

He’d hung up, piled up on ammo and weapons, and went out his window. And for four and a half weeks, he didn’t return; he went under, keeping small unnoticeable tabs on Batman and his little army as they searched too. But they had too broad of an area of interest; Jason? Jason only ever had his sights set on the Joker. So he searched and searched, and asked around, and not once did he get very far.

He wasn’t sure which sent him into this calm but urgent bout of action, but he was sure of two things: he would get Tim back, and then he would wrap his hands around Joker’s scrawny neck and squeeze and squeeze and squeeze. And then he would stab the man, just as he was going under, releasing his grip and allowing breath back in; he wanted to carve the man up like he had been carved up, to make the man hurt as much as he had at the madman’s hands. He wanted Joker to suffer; and then, when all was done, when he had had his fill of revenge, Jason would put a bullet (or two, or three, or maybe a whole magazine) into Joker’s skull.

With no appropriate leads and only dead ends, he returned to regroup, to see if maybe the Bat-people had anything for him to go on; he changed out of his outfit, shoved the duffle bag of equipment in the corner of his clean room, straightened a picture of him and Roy sitting atop his dresser, and took a warm shower. The grime of the underworld washed off, dirtying the water only in Jason’s mind, turning his skin pink from the heat and slowly swirling away down the drain.

Then a purposeful cold spurt, and Jason stepped out of the bathroom in a pair of sweats and a shirt; he rubbed a towel over his hair, but gave up shortly afterwards. He felt clean and calm, surprisingly for the hectic way he had been acting for the past weeks, and he would rather not view the white streak through his hair or the scars littering his body.

Instead, he grabbed a couple beers after opening the window, downing two before he even had the TV remote in his hands; he flicked it on and swallowed half a beer, setting his leg up on the coffee table and watching the bottles clink. It was a comforting sound; he turned the volume on the TV up.

The news anchor, a petite brunette with a heart shaped face and wide, heavily make-upped eyes, came on the screen looking shaken if not the least bit hopeful. “It has been confirmed,” she spoke, fluttering with the papers in her hands but never breaking eye contact with the viewers. “That the body found three days ago in a burned warehouse at the docks is, in fact, the dreaded villain known as the Joker. I repeat, the Joker has been confirmed dead; it would appear that the explosion and fire was not the cause of death, however nothing else has been released as of yet and we will update you as things prog—”

Everything narrowed, slowly, until the edges of his vision were hazy and the woman’s face was swimming, twisting; the beer was set down, calmly, on the coffee table by the others and Jason stood stiffly. His bones were made of led, and someone was sucking the air out of him and yet he couldn’t gasp—had no energy to; his shuffling steps took him to his bedroom and he thought about going to bed. If he had no energy to find his breath again, then maybe he should sleep. Forever; that would be nice.

He’d entertained the idea before, many times, when the phantom aches that shouldn’t be there creeped up on him, when he couldn’t sleep or when he slept too much, the days every noise was too loud and jarring, when his mind fought against ever want in his heart; as he entertained the idea now, he opened his drawers and methodically pulled items out. Every shirt and every pair of pants, every sock and underwear, and he laid them out as a pile on the bed. But piles grow, and his bed was soon not so organized as when he had started; piles were tilting, combining with neighbors, and Jason turned away and out the room.

He was thirsty; his throat was tight and dry and rough and it hurt to swallow, so he went to the fridge and opened a new beer; swallowed that, opened a cupboard or two, as if in search for something. He left some open, a couple shut once being ransacked; the beer was finished, dropped somewhere near the fridge as Jason wandered back to his room.

The heaviness in his bones was leaving, replaced with a buzz beneath his skin, and his breath was returning in gasps, deep breaths that threatened to break his ribcage; so he did the only logical thing that he could do, with the thought of Joker is dead, Joker is dead, I’m safe and have nothing left churning in his mind. He screamed; he tore pictures from their place and chucked them across the room, grabbed trinkets from his bedside table and listened to them crash against the walls with his screams.

He shoved the folded clothes from the bed to the floor, kicked and screamed and released everything he had ever felt; his anger, his hurt, his resentment, the pain that he didn’t let spill forth all those years ago when a clown beat him to death. Jason spotted the duffle bag in his angry haze, and he went to it, grabbed his pile of bullets and tossed them about. They clattered and rolled, sprinkling the carpet

And when all his emotions were spent, when everything was expelled and there was nothing left…he did what he thought should come next. He cleaned his room, piled everything on his bed; all his shirts, and his socks, and his sweaters, everything. And then he crawled underneath it, into his tomb, where he could hide from the world and be safe, for once, where his only purpose was to be still.

And as the seconds ticked by, he felt his limbs go boneless, sinking into the mattress but floating, light as a feather but indenting the softness beneath him; his mind numbed to two thoughts (he’s dead and there’s nothing left), and nothing else mattered. Nothing else would ever matter.

There was no reason to live now.

Two weeks later, Tim came in through his living room window.

Chapter Text

They were at it again, Damian thought, rolling his eyes and wondering where Jason was; he seemed to be the only one who ever wondered where Jason was or if he was okay. Dick hardly acknowledged their brother, and Bruce was too busy trying to synthesize a cure for Tim, while Tim was being smothered by Dick, and Alfred? Poor Alfred was pulled in every direction and then some.

“WELL TRY HARDER!”

“You don’t think I am?!”

Damian threw his pencil down and shoved away from his bed, stumbling to his feet and scratching Titus behind his ears. “Stay here, Titus.” Jason didn’t much like Titus, Damian was learning; he thought it was probably due to the fact that Jason didn’t much like anything large and exciting and loud—like Titus barking the night Bruce had dragged Jason into the cave.

That had been five days ago; Tim was still lost in the chemical induced insanity forced upon him, while Jason was still…”in shock”, is what Alfred said. Damian wondered if it was more than that, if there was something so broken in Jason that he had just…left, gone elsewhere, wandered away for the rest of his mortal body’s life.

Because Jason didn’t do anything; he slept for two days after arriving, Alfred mumbling about dehydration and sleep deprivation and something about shock, but afterwards? He didn’t do anything; he stared into the distance, never making eye contact, always somewhere far away, and when it was meal time it was a battle to get him to eat; whereas Tim would regurgitate his food frequently, Jason wouldn’t even swallow it. Bruce would give up after twenty minutes, returning to the cave and leaving his untouched plate for Alfred to bring down later; Dick would step in, keeping one hand on Tim to keep him from running to the bathroom and vomiting everything, but using one hand to try and spoon feed a stubborn man-boy?

Yeah, that didn’t end in a food fight…

“Don’t you dare say that to me! I have done my best to keep Gotham safe.”

“AND HERE WE ARE! HERE WE ARE, BRUCE, DO YOU SEE WHAT YOU’VE DONE? YOU AND YOUR MORALS!”

“You’re beginning to sound like Red Hood.”

“WELL MAYBE HE HAS A POINT!”

Damian found them in one of their many living rooms, someway away from the clock to the cave; Bruce was in retreat, and Dick had cornered him. He had Tim pressed to his side, Tim keeping a hand to his mouth—to keep his supper in or the laughter, Damian would never know—and his lashes were wet; and poor Alfred, stuck in the middle of this drama.

And there was Jason, in the corner, abandoned and worrying at the hem of his oversized sweatshirt Damian had dragged out of Bruce’s closet.

“We don’t kill!”

Tim squeaked; Dick tightened his grip on the younger boy.

“Maybe…maybe we should.” Dick muttered; it was the first time Damian had heard him lower his voice since this whole argument had started. “While you hide away in the cave trying to find a cure for whatever…this is,” here he waved a hand at Tim. “It all could have been avoided. So much could have.”

“We do not kill, Dick; you’re upset right now, you don’t mean what you’re saying. You don’t really believe we should have killed the Joker.”

Dick didn’t reply; he stared down at his quiet, broken brother and felt like a failure. He had failed to protect his family, had failed to protect Barbara when the Joker hurt her, had failed to protect the hundreds of people that Joker had taken from this world. “We should do something more than we are doing.”

“We’re doing the best we can.”

Dick whirled a glare on him. “I am! You haven’t gotten anywhere since this whole thing started! If you could put your pride aside and call in someone to help, anyone, anyone at all would help!”

“We’ll be fine.”

“LOOK AT HIM!”

“Do you really think for one moment,” Bruce’s voice was strained and Damian found himself stiffening as his father continued to speak. “That we should take up how Red Hood deals with his issues? Is that healthy in anyway? Is that true justice, true help, in anyway?”

“ARE YOU EVEN UPSET ABOUT YOUR SON BEING HURT?”

“OF COURSE I AM!” A pause where both huffed in frustration. “OF COURSE I’M ANGRY, OF COURSE I’M UPSET; I want to throw that psychotic animal in the Lazarus Pit so he can suffer for what he’s done to this family. To this city!”

“Well,” Dick swallowed. “I hope you’re self-entitled sense of justice doesn’t bring him back.”

And off they went again, yelling and arguing and getting nothing done; all they seemed to be doing was make everything worse. And Damian was left to watch everything crumble apart.

So he glared; he glared at the selfishness of everyone, how Tim was kept close to Dick’s side while Bruce yelled and Dick retaliated. He glared at Alfred, though the old man was doing his best to keep everyone together, and he glared at Jason—another victim in this charade of justice and love. An ignored victim, always ignored it seemed. Damian took two very large, very determined steps across the room; Jason was keening under his breath, little wispy noises that couldn’t be heard over the hurtful words across the room. He would start rocking soon, subtle movements no one ever really noticed.

Damian pulled him close; a hug, is what Dick called it. The word sounded like sunshine and rainbows and fluffy things, something Damian would shy away from; but this wasn’t about him, this was about Jason and the unfairness of life. So he gave Jason a hug.

Jason responded with a high pitched sob; he curled in upon himself, closer to the small body that had come to hold him up, and the yelling stopped. All eyes turned to the pair in the corner; tears streamed down Jason’s face and when his legs failed Damian was strong enough to get him to the floor without any injuries.

Dick watched his brothers, wide eyed. He felt guilt creep in again because in all their worry about Tim, no one had—again—thought to care for Jason. Bruce had locked himself in the cave, and Dick had only ever tended to Tim with full attention, Jason a mere back thought.

Jason curled against Damian as he cried; it was the most noise he’d made since coming home. He was sobbing, letting out heart wrenching screams as time went on; he didn’t cling, and Damian didn’t smooth his hair or touch him beyond the arms wrapped around his shoulders.

But it seemed to be exactly what Jason needed; to have someone come and hold him together, keep him grounded in reality, to hold his broken self together for just a moment. He calmed after a while, sniffling, and Alfred calmly suggested they should go to bed. Damian stood with Jason and didn’t pull away when Jason gripped his hand tightly.

“Good night, Father,” Damian calm close to spitting it out. “Grayson.” With that, he led his brother out of the room and up the stairs, Alfred following close behind with Tim.

The following night was another argument, like so many nights before, but the difference? The difference was that Damian had had the foresight to stick around instead of retreating to his room; he was able to drag Jason away from the bickering pair and out onto the porch. And he seemed to appreciate it; he had his head tilted back, eyes roving fascinatedly over the stars far away as if seeing them for the first time. And when a breeze picked up he didn’t shudder; he was warm, with Damian sitting next to him and Bruce’s large hoodie on, curled with his knees pressed to his chest.

Damian wondered if he was happy; he thought about asking, if he would get a response, when the door opened and the muffled sounds of an argument came tumbling out. Damian turned around to glare, a sharp comment on the tip of his tongue, but swallowed it. “Oh; it’s you.”

Tim sat on Damian’s other side and looked past him to Jason. “It’s my f-fault.”

Damian snorted. “No it is not; Grayson and Father are being childishly ignorant.” At Tim’s raised brow Damian shrugged. “Or they are merrily tired.”

Tim sighed, shoulders shaking with a giggle that bubbled forth; he covered his mouth and muttered an apology. “That’s also my fault; that they’re tired. I can’t…” He pounded a fist against his head. “Can’t sleep without seeing him.”

Damian didn’t say anything.

“I’m a horrible person.”

“Why?”

Tim didn’t say anything for a while; he gazed down at the grass and scratched at his knuckles until the skin turned red. “I…I’m glad…he’s dead. Or…”

Damian was too.

“Or at least…relieved… So why can’t I…” Tim giggled, but through them tears were falling. “Why can’t I sleep? Why do I keep…keep fucking up?”

“I think Todd wants to die.”

Tim’s head shot up, but the shock wasn’t at the statement. “You…you think so too?”

Damian nodded. “Do you want to die?”

He returned his gaze back to the ground, stuck a foot out and tried to pluck the blades with his toes. “I…I don’t know.”

“Half of the stars up there are dead, Drake; but they still shine and Todd likes them.” Damian rolled his head to watch Tim. “It’s like they won’t give up, even when they’ve given everything. So why should you?”

He buried a hand in his overgrown hair and thought about that; why should he? Because he was a mess, he had killed, he had been tainted by the Joker and these chemicals and the poison of life stealing innocence. “…Why does Jason?”

“Want to die?” Tim hummed and Damian shrugged. “What was his second-life’s purpose, Drake? You are not that stupid, and I know the chemicals have not addled your brain so much as to not solve a simple issue like this. Why do you think Todd wants to die?”

A pause, broken by subtle wheezes and giggles and banging upon his head to get the voices to stop. “…because the Joker is gone; his whole battle was to be avenged. And he wasn’t…” Tim mimicked Jason and watched the galaxy above. “Not really; the Joker died because he harmed…me… Not because of what happened to Jason.”

Damian nodded; he too looked at the sky.

“I think…” Tim muttered, swallowing thickly; he would not laugh. “I want to be a star.”

Damian nodded again; “Then you should be.”

“And Jason?”

“Todd can be one too if he wants to.”

Tim wasn’t quite satisfied with that answer; how would he become a star if no one taught him how to shine through the darkness? And no one would, Tim knew, because everyone was too concerned with him and his sickness to pay much attention to the solemn boy, the Joker's other victim He stumbled from the stairs and hurried around Damian to pull Jason to his feet, suddenly afraid to be too far from him, as if someone would come along and hurt him further. “Come on, Jay,” he whispered. “We’re going to go—heh, heh, hahhhrghh… We’re going to go find a way to shine.” And he pulled him away from the porch light, away from the loud voices that couldn’t see how to help, and into the darkness of the yard; the heavy night was only broken by the occasional walkway light, flickering to indicate the path. He paused though, and Jason bumped into his back, still staring up at the cloudless sky. “Damian, are you coming?”

Damian looked at the door behind him for just a moment before jumping to his feet and hurrying forwards to join his brothers.

They weren't okay right now; they may never be okay again. But there was no way either one would see the sunrise tomorrow if they didn't at least pretend things would be okay. It will workout, Damian thought. It has to.