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Pneuma

Chapter Text

For some reason, Dick's life refused to be simple

It all started when he was called into Gotham for an assist, which hey, no big deal. Dick loved any opportunity to get to see the family.

He knew that being in Blüdhaven was good for him, because it was. It was good for him and it was good for his and Bruce's relationship, which had started to deteriorate with them both trying to be in the same city at the same time and do things their own way.

That didn't mean he didn't miss everyone.

So when he'd gotten a call from Barbara at four in the morning he was on his motorcycle and en route by 4:10.

The mission brief had been standard, and it all seemed easy enough, there were just too many bad guys all at once for Bruce and Damian to handle by themselves. (Safely, that is)

Of course though, nothing was ever, ever that straightforward and simple in their lives.

*

On arrival at the cave Dick found out that there had recently been a major upset in Gotham's gang world, new players moving in and taking territory ruthlessly. Other than the brutality with which they were sweeping through the criminal underground, what really had Bruce glowering more than usual was the rate at which their ranks were growing.

Something needed to be done.

The plan, as it was laid out in the Batcave in the early hours of the morning, was relatively simple: Divide and Conquer.

They split the major players in the gang between the four of them, Tim having been called in to assist as well.

As soon as night fell again, they moved on where Barbara had heard whispers of something major going down.

The mission had been going according to plan, had been going fine, when suddenly, things started blowing up.

Which...wasn't a new obstacle for their family, they were all alarmingly used to random things exploding around them, except for the fact that the formerly menacing looking gang members they'd been fighting had all begun to run in terror, even going so far as to dive into the the water if it was close enough.

"We have company," Was all the warning Bruce could give them before the East side of Gotham was practically burning to the ground.

To be fair, it was empty warehouses, exactly zero residential areas, but still. Burning to the ground.

They were all frantically searching for the source of the mayhem when Dick spotted a very familiar sight. Red Hood was kneeling on top of a building, holding an RPG. He waved faux-cheerily when he caught Dick looking at him.

They'd been close before Jason had died. Although Jason's re-entry into the world of the living had been...tough on their relationship.

They'd worked a few missions together since though, and Dick was sure that if he could just get the other man to stay in one place for longer than a week they'd be able to actually talk, without the masks. Maybe they could banish some old ghosts.

Dick didn't get to reminiscence for long, as Jason sent the RPG into another derelict building, flipping out of sight as soon as he did.

"Nightwing, after him!" Bruce shouted and Dick was off, despite the feeling that it was a terrible idea. Jason wasn't a fan of being cornered, he knew.

As Dick raced after the former Robin he couldn't help but admit that Jason was good, had gotten better and received training none of them had. But some of his moves were still familiar, and Dick wasn't completely left in the dust.

Plus, he'd had some extra training of his own.

Jason was in the middle of grappling to another building when Dick discarded his grapple all-together, launching himself at the other man. Dick knew without a doubt that Jason could easily move out of the way, but they were a good few stories up, and doing so would...cause Dick to plummet to his death.

It wasn't exactly the best of plans, but well....Dick had a lot of faith.

Jason seemed to realize the predicament he was in seconds before he twisted his body, and grunted in frustration, grabbing Dick's hand and swinging both of them onto the nearest rooftop.

They landed in an undignified heap, and the fight was on.

Jason kicked him in the stomach, but Dick rolled with it, unsheathing his escrima sticks, their electricity bright in the moonless night.

Jason stood a few paces in front of him, hands resting inside of his jacket, no doubt on the hilt of his guns, "Look, Goldie, you can tell the Bat that I'm still following his rules while I'm here. No one died back there. But those pricks? They're mine. I've been tracking them for months."

Dick hesitated, knowing he'd left his comm on and that Bruce could hear everything being said. For a moment there was nothing and then, "Ask him to come in, we need his help."

Dick felt his eyes widen, but simply sheathed his weapons with a flourish, "That's not what this is about, Hood. He...wants you to come in. Says we're gonna need your help with this one."

Jason shifted, as if considering, "Sorry Big Bird, no can do. Doesn't work with my current schedule. " Were his parting words as he went to leap off the building but Dick was quicker, and caught him by the arm,

"Look J-...Hood. There's...It's been too long. Just come back with me, just talk to him. We obviously need your help with this, if we're so far behind." He kept his tone light, and his grip on Jason's arm loose. More than anything, he wanted a moment to talk to Jason, really talk to him.

Jason studied him for a moment, before shrugging him off, "Maybe another time," He snarked before leaping off the building.

Dick meant to chase after him, but that's when the scent hits him.

An Omega in pre-heat.

It roots him to the spot, freezes the air in his lungs.

He doesn't even really register Bruce talking to him, just sends out a vague acknowledgement that Jason was gone.

Jason had only ever smelled wholly neutral since he'd come back. The scent blockers he wore military grade. Which Dick had understood, secret identity and all that jazz, they all used them.

But the knowledge of Jason's designation sort of sent him into a tailspin. Dredges up the horrible realization that he'd accepted Jason's neutral scent without question because Jason had been too young to present when he'd been murdered.

As Tim, Damian, and Bruce come into view after having finished the few remaining gang members, Dick felt heavy, shoulders sagging. Couldn't shake the awful guilt of how much they'd really failed Jason.

Chapter Text

The next time they encounter the Red Hood, it leaves Dick growling, deep in his chest.

They're all tracking the same gang, who called themselves Gotham's Children, they'd ascertained that much, but where they were operating out of? Still a mystery.

It was becoming painfully obvious that Jason was at least three steps ahead of them.

When they do finally manage to catch up to him it's in the aftermath of a particularly nasty fight, the dim warehouse littered with the bodies of the unconscious and severely injured.

As they moved through the building they found that even if Jason was three steps ahead of them, he was still vastly outnumbered.

There were a group twenty heavily armed, and very pissed off looking thugs wearing patches with the letters GC emblazoned on them all gathered around Jason; their guns pointed directly at his head where he sat tied to a chair in the cavernous main room of the warehouse.

Jason was talking, filling the silence and buying time.

When it filtered through Dick's head what was happening, he simply moved without waiting for any sort of backup.

Barbara's voice was confused and recalcitrant in his earpiece, and he nearly flinched at the furious "Nightwing!" He got from Bruce.

It all registered as background information.

Three strategically placed smoke bombs and the goons were helpless, shouting in confusion. Dick dropped amidst them with an audible growl rumbling out of his chest unconsciously, his escrima sticks a blur as he took them down.

The smoke dissipated to twenty unconscious thugs, one of them twitching a little from the electricity. Jason whistled from where he was tied to the chair,

"Whoo! Goldie! Didn't think you had it in you!"

Dick tuned him out because it was stronger, the scent. Jason was willingly putting himself in harms way like this, what must've been days if that, before his heat. A million questions flew through Dick's head but what came out was a snarl, the guilt he'd felt after their last encounter momentarily vanishing,

"What are you doing?" He seethed and Jason sat up straighter, his mouth twisted angrily, helmet nowhere to found,

"My job, birdbrain." His words were low, a dangerous edge to them. Dick had a whole arsenal of comebacks to that but the family chose that moment to drop in, encircling the two of them.

Before anyone could say anything, Jason was out of his restraints and sprinting into the street.

He was grappling up a building by the time they all ran out of the warehouse, flipping them off as he did.

Bruce's expression was thunderous, even with the cowl, Tim and Damian wearing concerned and suspicious expressions respectively.

Dick couldn't focus on any of them, too lost staring after Jason and feeling deeply conflicted.

Because in Jason's wake was something that smelled faintly sweet, with a tinge of smoke and gunpowder.

Something he couldn't get out of his head.

Chapter Text

Red Hood just got more and more reckless, the closer he got to the core of the GC gang.

And they were still a football field behind him, every single time.

The cave was tense, Bruce actually pacing, "We need to bring him in."

Tim was biting his lip, forever the voice of reason, "I doubt he'll agree to that..-"

Dick cut him off sharply, stalking around the perimeter of the cave as he had been for the majority of the case, "It doesn't matter. He's going to get himself killed like this." he growled, and paused when all eyes turned toward him.

He wasn't being himself, he knew. But they didn't get it for some reason. He, at least, couldn't allow Jason to keep placing himself in stupid ass situations.

"I'm not letting him die, again." He snapped, before he stormed out of the cave.

*

Dick doesn't actually know what's wrong with himself, why his temper was so short, but he knew he had to clear his head before he really did lose it on someone. It's certainly wasn't going to help the case any.

The first place he ran was to the streets, to the black and blue. It was addicting, the mask. They were all hooked, just waiting for the next high. Sometimes it bothered Dick, but right then, he couldn't have cared less.

The first thing he stumbled on was a simple mugging that he was more than happy to deal with.

He had the guy on the ground, arm bent unnaturally behind him when there was a burst of static in his ear,

"Dick..." Barbara started and he grit his teeth, knocking the would-be mugger out with a well placed hit to the temple.

"What? Do you need me to come back in?" He asked.

There was a pause, "Look, we're all just worried about you, okay? This isn't like you."

Dick sighed, apology on the tip of his tongue when he caught a familiar scent on the wind, sweet and smoky.

He numbly put a finger to his earpiece, muttering, "I'm fine, I just need a little time. Nightwing out," before taking off.

*

It feels like he's sprinted across the entire city before he finally finds the source.

And there Jason was.

Unsurprisingly, he was in a fight.

Though something was wrong. Something was very very wrong. Jason's punches were slower, like he was moving in molasses, and it actually looked like he was struggling to beat this guy, who had an ugly silver GC on his shirt.

Perched on a ledge above the alley is where he hears it,

"Look at you, a little Omega bitch. Ain't so high and mighty now, are you Red Hood?"

Dick registered the noxious smell of the other alpha and the unmistakable rage and distress coming off Jason and that was it before he was flying down into the alley.

He landed with a furious snarl, foregoing his weapons entirely and decking the sleaze-bag in the face.

The hit landed solidly, and Dick heard a crunch as the other alpha screamed, going down. Dick kicked him hard, knocking him unconscious.

"Goldie, what the hell!?" Jason shouted, though the distress still pouring off of him completely invalidated his pissed off tone, the heat just tearing through his scent blockers. Dick's head was swimming, an overwhelming instinct screaming protect.

"Where is your safe house?" He asked, and knew the moment he said it that Jason wasn't going to let him help.

Predictably, Jason was on a nearby roof in the next breath, but Dick was hot on his heels.

*

Jason finally somersaulted into what appeared to be an abandoned building after a good forty five minute chase throughout the city. Having seemed to realize that Dick wasn't going to give up anytime soon.

Jason staggered into the living room as Dick watched from the fire escape, flipping on a light switch as he went.

Dick's breath caught when he saw that Jason was shaking badly, his movements uncoordinated. He threw his helmet off haphazardly, revealing that he was drenched in sweat too.

God, it was worse than Dick had thought.

"Jason," Dick started, but froze.

Jason's jacket comes off and the sweet smell of heat hit him full in the face, nearly knocking him on his ass as he climbed through the window.

When he blinked through the haze in his head Jason was braced on the counter, tremors rolling through his body.

"Get out." Jason snarled, eyes narrowed as he leveled a glare over his shoulder at Dick, green eyes flashing.

Dick stood frozen by the window. Wanted so badly to help Jason. To make it better for him. Aware enough to know that Jason was not actually in heat yet, and in a day or so was going to be suffering.

The idea of Jason shivering through his heat alone and miserable, got a whine curling out of Dick's chest.

Jason shivered at the sound, but didn't move from his spot against the counter.

"I said, get out." Jason demanded shakily and Dick couldn't stop himself from taking a step forward,

"Jason please, is there anything I can-"

"I don't need your pity, Grayson! Now get out!" Jason yelled, spinning around with a gun in his hand. Dick's eyes widen and he dived out of the window he came in, landing hard on the fire escape.

More than anything he wanted to go back in there, demand that Jason see sense, make him understand that he was only trying to help, that he had to help. But in the end he knew that it would probably not end well, if the gun was anything to go by.

*

It was only when Dick got back to his own safe house in Gotham did he realize something.

When he closed his eyes, he could still smell Jason's scent, the way it felt like a blanket over his shoulders. The sense of right it inspired.

He startled a little, where he was slumped against his living room wall, still in his gear.

God. Jason was his Mate.

It made sense, why he was snapping at everyone who moved. Why Jason had affected him so much even though he'd grown up surrounded by Omegas, and knew that they could take care of themselves. He was an idiot, for not having realized he was going into rut in response to Jason's heat.

He suddenly remembered, in vivid technicolor, Jason's furious demand for him to leave; Dick had to brace himself on his couch, his legs threatening to give out. Jason was his mate and if he'd reacted that way....it had to mean that he wasn't Jason's.

He'd heard of it happening, terrible stories where something had just....glitched. It was the only reason that makes sense, and it made something yawning and horrible tear open in Dick's chest.

He managed to pull himself out of his own spiral long enough to realize what he'd just done. If he really wasn't Jason's mate he'd just...invited himself into Jason's den. Days before his heat above all else, while Jason was vulnerable.

Jason must've thought Dick was going to hurt him.

That, combined with the knowledge that he was alone, in every sense of the word; would never have that connection he'd dreamed about his entire life, sent what felt like actual pain through his chest, made his stomach lurch violently.

Dick made sure to turn off his apartments surveillance before he curled himself into his bed, Nightwing gear and all, and cried.

Chapter Text

The next day was quiet in terms of gang activity, which was fantastic news as far as Dick was concerned.

It meant he didn't have to pretend he was okay around his family for long, only had to endure the daily check-in.

They saw through him as soon as he turned up, he knew they did, but he couldn't muster up the energy to care.

Bruce had even begun hovering more than usual, able to sense that something was wrong in his pack but unable to figure out exactly what (And Dick sure as hell wasn't going to give the World's Greatest Detective the opportunity to figure it out.). Dick knew it was just because he cared, because they all cared but...

There was a soul-deep sadness hammering away inside of his chest. It made waking up hard. It made breathing hard, like there were hands wrapped around his lungs.

People could go on without their mates if they died, he knew that. But he didn't know if he was strong enough to go on, knowing that Jason was alive, but wasn't his. Didn't know if he could stomach Jason finding his actual mate. Didn't know if he could survive seeing someone else's mark on Jason's neck.

More than anything though, Dick just wanted Jason to be happy, even if it wasn't with him. His alpha instincts begging him to provide for his Mate, no matter the emotional cost to himself.

The idea that he'd have to carry that sadness and longing, for the rest of his life, weighed impossibly heavy on his shoulders, so much so that by the time he left the cave his smile was paper-thin.

*

It wouldn't be a very good way to go out. But Dick didn't seem to be getting a choice, a theme as of late.

He slipped, of all things.

It was a disgrace to all of his training.

He'd been chasing after a group of petty thieves, having dragged himself out of bed to do at least a little good.

He'd hooked a line, perfectly as always, only to realize that the ledge he'd put his foot on wasn't as secure as it ought to have been, and his grapple slipped right out of his hands when he stumbled. Rookie mistake.

As soon as he started to fall he knew there wouldn't be enough time for him to fire another line, and there wasn't anything close enough to securely hold him either.

He had a second to muse about how it was death catching up to him, one too many performances without a net and this was his repayment, before something heavy slammed into his side.

He careened into the window of an abandoned office building, taking glass shards with him, but managed to roll into a defensive position.
Immediately after him came another figure hidden by the shadows crashing through what was left of the window.

Dick tensed, thankful that whoever it was had saved him from falling to his death, but unwilling to base his trust on that.

They didn't stick around to chat, just muttered, "Stupid." at him before grappling away.

The little bit of Jason's scent that Dick caught was enough to bring him to his knees, his biology confused and reeling.

His instincts just didn't understand why he wasn't with his Mate, who was obviously on a ridiculous and frankly dangerous amount of suppressants to keep his heat at bay.

There was a horrible pain behind his temples, like fire in his head. He felt shaky, unsteady and unable to properly focus his eyes.

Logically, he knew he needed to get help, needed to do something. Needed to figure out exactly what was wrong, and how to fix it.

Instead, he got to his feet, only stumbled a little, and blindly made his way home.

Chapter Text

Tim:

It had been four hours since Dick was supposed to have reported in.

That wasn't like him at all.

Granted, he hadn't been like himself for most of the mission, but Tim was willing to pin that one on biology.

He seemed to be the only one to have noticed the faint edge of rut that had been rolling off the former Robin, and was just too polite to bring it up.

Being a beta was annoying, at times.

But still, four hours was too long.

*

When he entered the cave, the family was gathered around the batcomputer, staring at a giant layout of Gotham. The GC had gone silent as
of late, and they were all tensed to deal with whatever it was they were planning.

Although Tim had a feeling everything was about to be shelved.

"Dick hasn't reported in all day," he announced, and watched as everyone present reacted.

Barbara immediately looked worried, and tapped a few buttons in front of herself, "He's had his apartments security disabled too. But it was a manual override..." She trailed off, sounding concerned.

The current Robin and Bruce stared at Tim with nearly identical looks.

To anyone else it would look like they were suspicious, but Tim knew them well enough to confirm that they were worried too.

Damian shook his head, "That's not like Grayson at all, to be slacking." An uneasy lilt to his words.

Bruce had an old fear in his eyes, one they were all tired of seeing,

"We need to check on him."

*

When they arrived at Dick's apartment, there were no lights on and no signs of activity.

It was extremely apparent as to why, when they opened the door.

It was silent as death in the apartment, yet his older brother's scent strong; indicating he was home, but his scent was...wrong...off somehow.

Instead of the comforting, heavy smell of a fireplace and summer nights the alpha always carried, there was the pungent smell of sickness clouding everything else out.

The pain in it was alarming.

Bruce was the first to rush into Dick's room, Tim and Damian close behind.

The sight that greeted them made Tim's stomach drop.

Dick looked small. Curled into the corner of his bed instead of spread eagle like he should've been. He was covered in sweat, yet shivering violently.

Bruce was alarmed, Tim could tell just from his movements, he practically ran to Dick, putting a hand on his shoulder trying to wake him only to receive an agonized groan in response. Bruce didn't even look away from his first partner to issue the command,

"Call Alfred."

*

Dick was hooked up to all kinds of medical equipment, an IV among them, and he was pale, his eyes moving fast behind his eyelids.

It was utterly wrong to see Dick so....still.

"What's wrong with him, Father." Damian asked quietly.

Everyone was afraid to raise their voice. Like it was a funeral.

The thought sent a chill down Tim's spine, and he wished he could take it back immediately.

"He's Unmatched," Bruce answered solemnly.

The shock throughout the room was palpable, and Alfred looked ashen at the news.

Being 'Unmatched' as it was referred to, was rare, and...very dangerous.

Dick's biology was confused, his Mate probably having been in close proximity for an extended period of time. His system had panicked under the emotional and physical duress of finding a Mate and going unanswered.

"What can we do, Bruce?" Tim asked softly, knowing the answer. Either they found whoever Dick's biology had chosen, and brought them back to convince it that everything was going according to plan, or Dick stayed as he was, and they would all be left to hope he pulled through it on his own.

Bruce's voice was rough when he spoke, "We try to figure out why this happened."

*

They started their investigation around Dick's apartment, but came up empty handed.

No one other than Dick had come or gone in a long time, meaning that if Dick had met someone who his body perceived to be his Mate, then it hadn't been at his apartment.

Barbara had no ideas of her own, and while the two alphas had dated, they all knew Babs would never allow for this to happen if they were actually Mates.

They searched for hours, but it was becoming increasingly apparent that whoever it was, they weren't going to find them without Dick's help.

Dick, who's body was tearing itself apart, and had slipped into what was essentially a coma.

Tim could already see Bruce fraying, just a little, at the edges.

They were just about to move their search, maybe look for clues somewhere else, when a silhouette appeared on the roof of Dick's building.

Red Hood, the infamous Jason Todd.

Tim had a lot of complex emotions when it came to the second Robin. A lot of awe and hero worship and a lot of anger about his current lifestyle activities all mixed together.

He didn't seem to be looking for them, and tensed when he came upon them.

"Hello....everyone." He threw out. His cocky attitude barely hiding the tension in his voice.

Bruce didn't make a sound, his silence icy.

Jason ignored him and looked at each of them in turn, cocking his head when something apparently didn't add up,

"Where's the Boy Wonder? Sleep through his alarm?" He taunted and Damian lost it.

The youngest Robin launched himself at Jason, "Grayson is in a coma, you insensitive ass!" He yelled and Jason went to bat him away, but...stumbled, would've gone down if Damian hadn't backed off.

"...In a coma?" He echoed, and there was an edge of horror in his voice at the words.

Damian nodded, still looking furious. Bruce's mouth was set in a grim line.

Tim ignored them to watch Jason carefully, tilting his head when he noticed him fidgeting. Jason had a sniper's stillness when he was in the Hood, relaxed in a way he never was out of it. This wasn't normal.

There was something off, and Tim had a suspicion beginning to form.

He didn't get time to study it too deeply, because Jason's voice snapped him back into the conversation, soft and barely there, "Can I see him?"

For a moment, Tim didn't think Bruce would let him, but after a long silence he finally agreed with a curt nod and a flourish of his cape as he vanished over the side of the building.

Chapter Text

Jason had been back in the cave since he'd died, but being there at all still made him uncomfortable. The memories were...a lot, and brought up too many emotions that Jason didn't want to sift through.

It was completely different from the last time he'd been inside, but that wasn't a surprise. The cave was always in a constant state of disarray and change, largely due to Bruce obsessively upgrading its systems.

His eyes swept over the dark space, catching sight of Alfred. He seemed to be the one constant of the place, and Jason always felt a spark of warmth in his company. Though the only thing the Butler inspired as Jason looked him over was fear. His face was drawn, deep shadows hanging under his eyes, and an undeniable look of grief about him.

Jason's stepping forward before he can stop himself, but ends up freezing mid-step. Under the smell of hospital sterility, Jason caught Dick's scent, or, what used to be his scent.

It twists him up, throws him off balance and sends nausea shooting through him. The room around him narrowed and everything ground to a halt as he was plunged in memory.

Before Jason had died, Dick had smelled warm. Like safety and happiness and joy. Jason hadn't allowed himself to find out if he'd still smelled just as wonderful after he'd come back but...Jason knew viscerally that this was wrong.

Dick wasn't supposed to smell like death and decay.

His muscles unlocked after a moment, and heedless of the members of the family standing behind him he tore off his helmet and mask, throwing them away carelessly. It felt as if he's marching to a firing squad as he all but sprinted over to Dick, a hopeless dread filling him up.

He skidded to a stop next to his predecessor, knees practically buckling.

Dick looked so sick. His skin sallow, in a coma and yet his features still etched in pain.

Jason grabbed his hand on reflex, "Dick," He started, his voice incredibly soft, "Big Bird, gonna need you to come back for me. I have some things...I need to apologize for."

All he got was silence, and the cold beeping of the heart monitor. There was a roaring in his ears, unadulterated panic leeching through him, no no no no.

"Dick," Jason begged, "I'm so sorry." Because he'd ignored Dick entirely, too used to treating his heats as inconveniences and something to defend himself over that he had never even considered the former Robin had just been trying to help.

With a jagged noise Jason pressed his face to the bed. The action caused what was left of Dick's actual scent to leak through the miasma of sickness.

The warmth that Jason had remembered was still there, but layered on top of it was something new. Something that reminded him of his favorite spot in the manor, where he'd felt the safest after being taken in. Reminded him of thumbing through a favorite book, bathed in the afternoon sunlight.

Reminded him of what home felt like.

The pain inside of his chest felt worse than dying had, the white hot ache behind his sternum. He'd done this. He was responsible for this. The knowledge that he'd caused his Mate this much pain....

His Mate. Dick Grayson, who'd only ever shown him kindness. Only ever shown him love and acceptance both before and after everything.

Minutes ticked by that felt like hours, Jason stayed on his knees, both of his hands gripping one of Dick's like a lifeline, and he prayed. For the first time in a long time he prayed, begged anything and anyone.

Nothing happened.

Jason sensed one of the family behind him, and distantly heard them take a step, probably to try and convince him to move or god forbid, comfort him, he growled at them in warning.

They retreated.

The silence stretched.

Jason pressed his lips to Dick's wrist. Gentle, barley there presses up and down his forearm. Butterfly kisses to help him get better, something Jason's mother had done for him, the few times she'd been sober enough.

*

Jason woke up later in the same position. His knees ached horribly, but all of it faded into the background.

Dick was still breathing steadily, in and out.

No sign of change.

Jason couldn't face the thought that he was too late, or that he couldn't fix it. Even in his own head.

So he pressed his lips back to Dick's wrist, closed his eyes, and wished for a miracle.

*

It was Barbara who finally convinced him to get up.

It'd been two days since he'd stumbled into the cave, and Dick still wasn't showing signs of improvement.

Jason had glared menacingly at any of the family who who'd tried to get close in that time, including Bruce.

He had one exception though, and it seemed they figured it out.

"Jason." She said softy, and Jason slowly raised his head, the constant rage he carried inside of himself the only thing he had the energy to access.

He bared his teeth, but it was half-hearted at best. He'd spent most of his vigil sleeping, but he was tired, deep down inside.

Barbara was silent for a minute. Her hands were neatly folded in her lap, and she looked as put together as ever, but Jason could see it, in her eyes.

She was tired too.

Tired of this. Of losing people. Of the Life taking everything.

"You need to eat something, Jason." It was an order, delivered gently, yet with no room for argument. Before Jason could even attempt to get angry she continued, "It's okay. I'll watch him for you."

Barbara understood in a way that the others couldn't.

Jason wearily got to his feet, his joints cracking after being still for so long. On his way out, he rested his hand on Barbara's shoulder, a thank you he couldn't manage with words.

*

On the fourth day, Jason was sitting in a chair beside Dick's bed, reading.

More specifically, he was reading to Dick.

He'd slipped into Dick's room after finally being coaxed into taking a shower by Tim, and grabbed a book off the bedside table.

Being in the room had felt like a punch to the chest, but it was worth it.

The cave was silent except for his voice, the family having returned briefly to patrol to deal with the GC resurfacing.

The book Jason was reading from was well-loved. The spine had been glued back on, and the covers were all but faded from age and use.

The pages had a hint of yellow to them, just beginning to give into age and fade from white.

Jason turned each page reverently, as he knew it's owner did.

The words that fell from his lips illustrated daring adventures carried out by a noble, unselfish, hero.

Though the silver lettering on the front had faded, Jason knew the title.

Robin Hood.

It was one of Dick's most prized possessions, and yet when Jason had stolen it the first time Dick had returned to the manor, Dick hadn't been angry.

Hadn't been angry at Jason, who had stolen so much more than a book from him.

No, when he'd finally found Jason, curled up in his secret alcove of the library, he'd smiled.

Jason had held the book out, mouth set in a stubborn line. Dick had just pushed it back into his hands with a grin, asking if he could read it with him.

Jason had stared at him in utter confusion, still waiting to be yelled at, "How're we supposed to do that? What if I read faster than you?"

Dick had laughed, a light and genuine sound, "You're right, little wing. I guess you better read it to me then."

Jason still remembers the way his heart had fluttered the entire time they'd laid there, Jason's voice the only sound in the room other than the fireplace.

Jason's voice faltered as he comes out of the memory. The words blurring before his eyes for a moment.

His throat gets tight, too tight to continue reading, and he closed the book, setting it aside.

The vice around his heart tightened as he took Dick's hand in his.

Jason missed him.

After taking a minute or so to get a hold of himself, Jason picked the book back up with one hand, leaving the other still wrapped around Dick's.

He lost himself to the story, the comfortable familiarity of it.

With no warning at all, the hand in Jason's grip twitched, once.

Jason cautiously set the book down, holding his breath.

For a moment Dick turned his head from side to side, as if pained, and then like the miracles he'd stopped believing in, Dick's eyes opened

Chapter Text

At first, there was nothing.

Dick was aware enough to grasp that he was right under the surface of being awake.

He could hear a voice in the background like an echo through water, the bass of it soothing and familiar. Whatever they were saying was lost to him, but he still felt comforted.

Instead of fading back into that abyss, Dick fought towards that sound. Innately understanding that it was important, even if he didn't have the higher brain functions to parse out why it was important.

While he couldn't manage to understand words, he was able to identify scent. The mixed smells of home, and then much more immediate, the smell of fading heat and wood smoke.

Jason.

The realization alone was enough to catapult Dick into consciousness, and as soon as his eyes opened he was searching for Jason, for his Mate.

When he finally got eyes on him, the relief that spread through him felt like dropping the weight of the world off his shoulders.
He couldn't even be worried about the fact that he couldn't manage to speak, too focused on taking in every single one of Jason's features.

The scent of heat was all but gone, buried under layers of distress.

"Jay....Jason?" He begged, hoping that he wasn't dreaming. Dick slowly became aware of the rest of his limbs, and the vice-like grip around his left hand.

Dick made his eyes focus enough to look from where his hand was enveloped by both of Jason's up to Jason's shockingly tear-stained face.
He was beautiful, even with the puffy eyes. Dick decided to tell him as much, "You're beautiful, you know that?" He slurred, and was beginning to feel alarmed at how little control over his own body he had. It definitely felt like he was on morphine.

Jason laughed and it warmed him up from the inside-out, even if it was wet and shaky.

Jason should always be smiling.

Dick couldn't really move a lot, and he felt kind of sick and his head hurt, yet none of that mattered. Jason was there, his Mate was there and he was smiling.

There was just one problem.

"You're too far awa..." Dick tried, but felt an overwhelming exhaustion begin creeping over him.

Jason understood though, because in the next minute the omega was tucked into his side, careful of the medical equipment. It was a tight fit, they were not small guys, but they managed.

Dick had a lot of questions, but thinking clearly was becoming a challenge.

He decided he would worry about all of it later, and pressed his face into the top of Jason's hair, breathing him in.

Warm, safe, happy.

With the knowledge that Jason was okay, and close to him, Dick allowed the darkness to tug him under.

*

The next time Dick woke up, all of the pain was forceful and insistent, no longer muted by drugs. It felt like he'd gone fifteen rounds with Bane. In his pajamas.

His throat was incredibly dry, and his stomach hurt like he hadn't eaten in a few days.

He panicked a little, wondering what the hell had happened. When he went to move, he found his left arm completely numb.
Before he could freak out, it registered that there was someone laying on it.

With a startled inhale Dick's memories rushed back, and he opened his eyes, staring down at Jason breathing evenly to ensure he hadn't dreamt it all up.

Being in pain sucked, but Dick was pretty used to it by this point in his life. Not quite knowing why everything hurt so much was a little worrying, but he'd take it for being able to have Jason like this, with his guard so thoroughly down.

These moments of vulnerability were so incredibly rare. Especially after Jason had come back sporting guns and a grudge.

Dick hadn't even realized how fully he'd missed seeing this side of the other man.

Jason had always slept with his mouth slightly open, yet never snored. His hair was wildly disheveled, the white of his trauma strip fanning across his forehead. It almost hurt, how Jason actually looked as young as he really was in his sleep.

Dick would've been content to lie there forever, watching over Jason as he got sleep he no doubt needed, but a machine to Dick's right made a horrible sound and suddenly the little room was full to bursting.

Dick blinked at the faces of his entire family.

"Uh, hi?" He ventured when no one said anything, and he carefully turned off the heart monitor. Before he could ask what happened to him, his right wrist was captured in a vice-like grip.

Damian's expression was as serious as Dick had ever seen it, and he held onto Dick's wrist even tighter as he spoke, "You are never allowed to do that again, Grayson." It was delivered with severity, to which Dick raised his eyebrows as Damian released him.

"Ah....do what, exactly?"

Bruce, in a terribly flat voice, explained the situation.

Dick listened to what happened to him, and couldn't say he was surprised. The thought that Jason hadn't been his had been crushing, a fatal blow.

When Bruce finished, he looked at Dick with such profound relief that Dick couldn't help his smile being a little wobbly, "Sorry about all that, guys."

Bruce rolled his eyes at him.

Tim was smirking, "Here's where the 'it's okay just never do it again' would come in." He gestured widely to the entirety of Dick's left side, "but I don't think we have to worry about that."

Dick glanced at Jason, and was shocked to find him still sleeping. A soft smile finding it's way onto his face, "Yeah. I don't think so."

"Tt," Damian huffed, taking the conversations sappy turn as his cue to leave now that he was sure Dick was okay. Dick watched him go fondly, reminded again how lucky he was to have such a great family.

Tim followed the current Robin out, throwing a wave over his shoulder and looking oddly smug.

Bruce had seated himself in a nearby chair, and was watching the proceedings with a carefully blank expression.

Barbara waited for the younger Robins to file out before wheeling herself into the room, making a soft cooing noise at Jason's impression of a sleepy kitten.

"We'll talk later." She whispered, eyes going from Jason's prone form to Bruce still as stone before she made her tactful and telling exit.

Dick shifted, getting comfortable. The movement jostled Jason where he was nestled against Dick's chest, and he whined a little. Dick shushed him gently, and felt a primal sort of pride that Jason actually settled back down, content even in what he would normally consider a hostile environment.

Pleased that Jason was settled, Dick lifted his eyes to Bruce's.

"You worried us," Dick acknowledge it with a careful dip of his head, expression apologetic. Bruce paused for a moment as if choosing his words carefully, "You worried me, Dick. And I don't want to see you hurt again."

Dick took a beat to calm himself, the double meaning to Bruce's words thinly veiled. Not wishing to disturb Jason, Dick withheld the angry snarl building in his chest.

"You can't tell me to stay away from him Bruce, you know that." The idea was ridiculous, unheard of.

Bruce nodded, conceding. "You're right Dick, and I wouldn't. I'm just asking you to be careful. He isn't the same person he was before. He's dangerous."

The growl that slipped out was unintentional but unavoidable, "So are Tim and Damien. Hell, so am I Bruce. You can't-" Bruce interrupted him, anger boiling just beneath the surface,

"We don't kill people Dick. That is the difference between us and people like him."

Instead of rising to meet the challenge that his pack leader was clearing issuing, Dick sighed, deflating. "Jason wouldn't hurt me Bruce, and you know that. Not only that, but he has played by the rules the entire time he's been in Gotham."

Bruce rose from the chair, an impenetrable look on his face, "Yes, he's followed the rule for now. But what are you going to do when he doesn't, Dick? If he forces you to choose between him and who you are, isn't that just as bad as hurting you?" Before Dick could reply, Bruce's features darkened and he pushed on, "I hope he realizes the damage he could cause."

Bruce left before Dick could argue, leaving him staring at his back as it vanished into the perpetual shadows of the cave.

"I wouldn't ask that of you, you know."

Dick tore his eyes from Bruce, looking down to meet Jason's hunted eyes. Dick's heart twisted, wondering how much he'd heard. "I know you wouldn't," he comforted.

Jason scowled, all the peace from earlier vanishing. Anger spilled out into Jason's scent, but before Dick could worry it was masked by a cloying wave of exhaustion. Dick watched Jason as he visibly succumbed, his shoulders dropping.

"I don't care what he says," Dick made to sure to catch Jason's eyes as he said it. He needed to know it was true. Jason smirked, eyes falling closed as he rested his head back on Dick's shoulder.

"I never thought I'd see the day, Boy Wonder." Jason said, but his heart wasn't in it. Dick shifted, using his newly IV free right hand to brush the hair off of Jason's forehead.

"Are you okay, little wing?" The concern was both habit and instinct, and Dick couldn't help it.

Jason didn't open his eyes to reply, "The pit...changed some things. Or so I've been told. I was always going to be an Omega, that much I know. But...my heats aren't right..." He trailed off, slurring toward the end. Dick thought he might've fallen asleep, but he continued, albeit quieter, "They're too short. Too intense. Takes a lot of out me. More than they should apparently." Dick had noticed he no longer could smell heat, but after everything, he hadn't thought to question it. His rut had disappeared as well, but that was probably due to everything else.

"Have you been to a doctor?" Dick asks softly, concern welling into his chest and spreading into his scent.

Jason managed the energy to snort derisively, "Haven't exactly had the time, Goldie."

Dick opens his mouth, concern warring with frustration over Jason's blasé attitude when Jason goes on, "Not exactly a fan of doctors either. Went to one early on...After...and lets just say it..didn't go well."

The ominous end to the story has Dick reeling, though he can tell that Jason is well and truly on the brink of sleep. So he buries his concerns and pulls his mate close.

"We'll figure it out Jay," He whispers, and swears he feels Jason nod, but when he looks down Jason is fast asleep, breathing softly against his chest.

They will though, Dick determines, figure it all out.