dontvotemeout: (comic: dark profile)
[personal profile] dontvotemeout
When Jason woke up, the first sensation he recognized was pain--lots of pain all over his body.

The second sensation he recognized was touch—just a little touch, as someone held his hand. The touch, though, was worse than the pain, and Jason flinched, trying to get away. As the touching got worse, going from someone holding his hand to someone holding him down, Jason thrashed around more, until finally he heard the person say, "Jason, relax, it's okay."

"Bruce?" he said, as some of the fuzziness cleared from his head. At least, he thought he had spoken, but his voice was barely audible.

"Shhhh, don't try to talk yet," Bruce said, going back to covering Jason's hand with his own.

Jason cracked his eye open - the one that wasn't covered with gauze like he was some kind of mummy - and looked around, trying to get a sense of his surroundings. "Where?" he murmured.

"Hospital," Bruce said. "How are you feeling?"

A dozen responses went through Jason's head, each more sarcastic than the last, but in the end, all he said was, "Sore."

Bruce frowned at that, like the lack of sarcasm was another sign that something was seriously wrong. "The nurses have done everything they can to make you comfortable, and the doctors have you on the best medication available," he said, like that would make Jason feel better.

"It's okay," Jason said, even though it wasn't. It was hard to think of things to say to Bruce at the moment that wouldn't cause him to yell. "What's the damage?"

Bruce sighed. "A concussion, a broken arm, two broken fingers, and about ten years off of my life," he said, like every cut and bruise had been accounted for. "When I saw you go down in that crowd--"

"You saw it? I thought you were too busy running away," Jason said, focusing on the cast on his arm so he didn't have to look at Bruce. He hadn't meant for that to come out sounding quite so spiteful, but he also didn't think Bruce deserved to have him soften his words right now.

"I was wondering how much of that you saw," Bruce said. "I didn't have a choice. Commissioner Gordon made me leave. He said just the sight of me was inciting a riot. I told him I couldn't go without you, and he swore his men would go in and get you."

"Did they?" Jason asked. He sure as hell couldn't remember being rescued by anyone.

Bruce shook his head. "Not until it was too late. By the time they got to you, the mob had already dispersed."

"Is this where you tell me 'I told you so?'" Jason asked. "About how I should have stayed at school like you said to?"

Bruce sat back a little in his chair, and Jason realized he looked genuinely guilty. "Do you honestly think I'd say that right now? Yes, I wish you'd stayed at school, but I'm not going to gloat just because I was right to ask you to stay out of Gotham."

"But you do admit that you were right," Jason said.

"Of course I was right. But I can't go back and change things now, no matter how much I wish I could," Bruce said. "Obviously, I should have sent you back to school as soon as you got here. Or dealt with that mob myself."

"You just said Gordon wouldn't let you," Jason pointed out.

"I could have ignored him. I could have made him help me get to you. I could have done a dozen different things."

"And all of them would have made that mob turn on you instead."

"And I would have been fine. I'm bigger and stronger than you are, and better protected. They wouldn't have been able to hurt me like they hurt you," Bruce said, rubbing his forehead like the discussion was giving him a headache.

Frankly, just talking was wiping Jason out, and he was finding it hard to keep his eyes--eye open. "I'm not mad at you for getting away. I just...I don't even know who to be mad at right now," he said, blinking quickly to try to keep his vision clear. Maybe he could focus his anger when he wasn't so tired.

Bruce seemed to sense that Jason was nodding off again, because he reached over and tucked the hospital blankets a little tighter against him. "We can talk more about what happened later. For now, get some rest."

"Will you stay?" Jason asked, almost wincing at how needy that sounded, and at what the request seemed to say after what had happened at the mall. "I mean, it's the middle of the day, so if you have meetings, or business stuff--"

"Of course I'm going to stay," Bruce assured him. If he was hurt by Jason's question, he didn't let it show. "Close your eyes. I'll still be here when you wake up."

Bruce's words calmed Jason enough that he did close his eyes, and within minutes, he was back asleep. He might not have felt completely safe, even with Bruce around, but he was close enough for now.

***

Over the next few days, Jason started feeling better even as the situation got worse. The President issued an executive order declaring that all costumed superheroes had to cease their public activities until further notice, and Bruce was so angry that he hadn't even called Jason on his language when he swore during the President's speech.

Still, Bruce was keeping his costume hung up for now, and while Jason appreciated having Bruce around at the hospital, chaos was starting to take over in Gotham, and Jason felt guilty, like the escalation of the anti-hero movement was his fault.

"It's getting worse. The streets are aflame," Bruce said, from where he was standing at the window of Jason's room. "And we're supposed to just sit here doing nothing."

"That's still about all I can do," Jason grumbled, poking at his cast. The doctor said he'd have to keep it on for a few weeks, and it was already starting to drive him crazy. "I'm sorry, Bruce. Did I screw things up that badly?"

"What? No, you didn't screw anything up," Bruce said. "I'm just glad you're going to be all right."

"But what's going on outside - do you think that's my fault for provoking those people?" Jason asked.

"Of course not," Bruce said, without missing a beat. "It's not your fault that mob decided to attack you, and none of this would be happening if Godfrey wasn't fanning the flames. What you need to think about is--"

Before Bruce could continue, the sound of gunfire came from outside, making Bruce and Jason both sit up straight.

"Gunshots? What the hell is happening out there?" Jason asked.

Bruce sighed and shook his head, looking more frustrated than Jason had seen him in a long time. "Everything's coming apart out there. With heroes hamstrung by the president's edict, the criminal element is having a field day," he said. "Maybe now, people will appreciate just how much they need us."

"Or they won't," Jason said bitterly. "Don't forget, these are the same people who tried to kill me."

"I can't believe that was intentional," Bruce said, the same response he'd given every other time Jason offered his opinion on the matter. "Those people were goaded by Godfrey. They didn't know what they were doing."

"Or maybe they did, deep down," Jason said, having thought about this a lot with nothing else to do in bed. "Maybe deep down, they all really hate us. Maybe they fear Batman more than the criminals do. Or maybe we remind them too much of everything they're not and can never be." Not everyone got picked for this job, after all. There were only two people in the world who could say they'd been Robin.

"No, I don't think it's that at all," Bruce said, standing up from Jason's bedside. "The President is wrong, and I have to help prove it."

"How?" Jason asked, sitting up more, until he was stopped by Bruce's hand on his chest.

"I'm going to do the only thing I know how to do, and this time, you're going to listen to my instructions," Bruce said. "You still have a few days until you go back to school. You're going to stay right here and let yourself heal. When I come back--"

"If you come back," Jason said, looking towards the window and the rioting outside.

"When I come back," Bruce replied, "I'll take you home, and then straight to school when it's time. Do you understand me?"

It went against all of Jason's instincts, but he'd already gotten himself into enough trouble for a year, and he didn't want Bruce to lose all of his faith in him. "All right, I'll stay put."

Bruce gave Jason a genuine smile, which was worth just about any promise in Jason's opinion. "I'll be back as soon as I can," he said.

Once Jason was alone, he sat back on his bed and sighed. With his cell phone at the manor, he didn't have any way to contact people, and the only entertainment he had was the television - but even that didn't work with so much chaos on the news. For now, the best option seemed to be to try to sleep, and ignore the sounds outside his window.

When Jason woke up again around lunchtime, he decided to take a chance and turn on the news. What he'd been seeing lately had been appetite-killing, but without Bruce around, he only had himself to rely on to find out if things had any chance of getting better. To Jason's annoyance and dismay, the news stations were all playing the same thing - a press conference led by G. Gordon Godfrey from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

"Our time has come, my friends!" he said to the crowd. There were so many people around that the entire front of the memorial was covered, and Jason had to wonder again how so many people had been duped into following this jerk. "The moment of the common man has arrived, the moment when we shall throw down the system that has struggled to suppress us, so that we may raise up another, better society in its place! Yes, my friends, from this day forward, we are done with the dangerous concept of the heroic ideal! From this day forward, all men are created truly equal, answerable to only one authority, the true authority--"

"And we know who that authority is, don't we Godfrey?" came another voice, and the cameras rushed to bring the new speaker into view. For a moment, the crowd, and even Godfrey, fell almost silent as everyone who had gathered came face to face with the superhero known as Doctor Fate.

"You must be crazy, masked man!" Godfrey said, recovering his voice. "Coming here, into the presence of your enemies! We are legion, and you are alone!"

"Wrong, Godfrey," Doctor Fate said, with a wave of his hands as his voice boomed. "Along the twisted paths I walk, others are ever at my side, in spirit if not in fact. They are those who serve the cause of justice, and believe me, Godfrey, they are legion too."

As Doctor Fate finished speaking, he suddenly wasn't alone anymore. Half a dozen superheroes appeared with him - Captain Marvel, Blue Beetle, Flash, Black Canary, Green Lantern, Superman--and Batman.

Jason stared at the television as the superheroes stared down Godfrey. He was pretty sure he didn't have enough swear words for this.


[Dialogue and story adapted from Legends #3 and #5. NFI, NFB, OOC okay, etc.]

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dontvotemeout

October 2011

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