Chapter 41: Repercussions
TW: Jamie implies she was suicidal in this chapter. I'll leave a short summary at the end of the chapter of her and Bruce's conversation for those who don't or can't read it. That part will be underlined for those who want to skip it.
I'll admit, I was a coward. I left the hospital without visiting Victoria. I only felt a tiny bit guilty about it.
Jason came back with me to Gotham at Dad's request. That had to be the worst plane ride and drive of my life. I was an anxious mess, dreading returning to Gotham. I kept picking at a hole in my jeans.
"Do I have to go in? I just want to sleep in my own bed and deal with this later," I complained as we pulled up to the manor.
"Hey, I don't want to be here any more than you do," Jason said as he parked the car.
"Then why are you here? I know I didn't ask you, and I doubt you really want to see Dad or Bruce," I said, staring longingly at the gate, wishing I was on the outside of the manor grounds.
"I figured you could use someone on your side right now."
I looked at him in surprise. "You're on my side?"
He looked at me like I was a moron. Which given my actions the past week, I couldn't really argue.
"Why do you think I've stuck around the last few days?" he turned off the car, "It wasn't because I like doing Dick or Bruce favors. I would've given anything to have an adult on my side at your age."
"I thought you died at sixteen?"
"Not the point Kid. But if you don't want me here, I'll just leave," He reached to turn the car back on.
"No!" I grabbed his wrist, "Please stay. I don't want to be alone with them."
"That's what I figured. Now let's go face the Bat."
I had been pacing in Bruce's study for about five minutes when Terry came in for patrol. Jason had told me to wait in the study while he talked to Dad and Bruce in the cave. Fine by me, I wasn't in a rush to see them anyway. I was too anxious to even try sneaking into the cave to listen. At least Ace bothered to stay with me.
"You're back! How was Stan- What the hell happened to you?" Terry asked when he saw me. I could see his eyes dart to all my injuries, like he couldn't pick one to focus on.
"Mostly my mother," I sighed and sank to the floor next to the grandfather clock. Ace laid down and put his head in my lap.
"Your mom did that to you?!"
I let out a snort. "Give me some credit Terry," I closed my eyes, my anxiety was consuming all my energy today, "I can do this all by myself."
"What happened?" he sat next to me.
"Don't you have a patrol to do?" I opened an eye to look at him.
"It can wait. You're more important at the moment." I gave him a tired smile and rested my head on his shoulder.
"You know McGinnis, if I had ever had a brother, I would've wanted one like you."
"I would've liked a sister like you too, Grayson." He patted my head gently, "But flattery isn't going to stop me from wanting know what happened."
I sighed and paused for a moment.
"You remember that microchip in my skull?"
"Yeah. Max filled me in on everything with MedCorp and your mom. Thanks for keeping me in the loop," He said flatly.
"Sorry," I cringed, "I just thought the less people who were involved in my mess, the better. I was very wrong about that."
"Ya think?" he huffed.
"Do you want the details or not?"
I told him every detail of my trip, from Ko knowing my secret, to Jason's promise that Victoria would get what she deserved.
"I blew it, Terry," I let the back of my head hit the wall with a dull thud, "I tried so hard to convince to everyone that Shadow wasn't mistake, but I was wrong. I deserve to rot for what I've done."
"There's no need to be so hard on yourself. So what if you didn't try all that hard to save your mom. She deserved it if you ask me. You're allowed to be human, Jamie. Especially after what she did."
"But we're supposed to be better than that!" I exclaimed, "Aren't we?"
"If you ask Bruce, maybe. I haven't exactly gone out of my way to help certain people either."
"What do you mean by that?"
"When I faced Powers, it's not like I went to the ends of the earth to save the bastard."
As nice as it was to hear I wasn't alone in my feelings, it didn't make me feel better about myself.
"How am I supposed to live with myself? How can I be expected to do anything when Anni is gone. When I'm the reason she's dead and my mother was in the ICU? I haven't had decent sleep in months because the nightmares and guilt are eating me alive! And who knows how much worse it'll be now! Oh my god," I started trembling.
"Jamie? Are you okay?" Terry put an arm around me, gently rubbing my arm.
"I can't tell him," I curled into myself, "I-I'm not strong enough to tell him that," I hoped Jason would do it for me, because I would probably actually breakdown if I had to.
"Tell who what?" Terry asked.
The grandfather clock moved before I could elaborate what I meant and Jason emerged. He glanced at Terry and me on the floor with strange look.
"They're ready for you." He told me. I stiffened, and Terry looked at me.
"I can come with you if you want," Terry offered, "Bruce is expecting me for patrol anyway."
His offer was so tempting, it would've been nice to have Terry there while I faced Bruce and Dad, but I knew in my gut I had to do this alone.
"Thanks McGinnis, but I don't think Bruce would let you stick around anyway," I stood up and turned to Jason, "Let's get this over with."
I couldn't stop the nervous trembling running through me. I had never wished so hard that time would stop. Unfortunately it didn't and I was in the cave long before I wanted to be.
Dad and Bruce were waiting for me, staring at the entrance. Any fight I had left, fled the moment I made eye contact with Bruce. I looked at floor. I couldn't even bring myself to look at Dad.
Jason gave me a gentle nudge from behind. I moved enough so I wasn't in his way, but stayed by the cave stairs.
"Jamie, come here," Dad ordered. I stiffened at his tone.
"Dick," Jason warned, sticking by me. My trembling got worse.
"Jamie, please," Dad said softer. I shuffled closer, eyes still focused on the ground. I stopped when I saw his feet.
"Little Bird, please look at me."
I slowly looked up at him, tears flooding my vision.
"Oh sweetheart," He hugged me. I couldn't hold it in anymore and started to sob.
I clung to him with my good arm like my life depended on it. I was so stressed and tired of everything, of carrying this grief and fear around inside of me. After everything that had happened, this was the thing that broke me.
I don't know how long we stayed like that, but at least Jason and Bruce left us alone. They either went upstairs or elsewhere in the cave.
Eventually I calmed down and let go of Dad. I took a step back, but he held my cast in his hand. He traced the webbing of the cast with a finger.
"Dad, I-I messed up," It took everything in me to talk around the lump in my throat.
"Jamie, what happened?" he asked with a gentleness I didn't deserve.
"I came so close to the edge, Dad. I almost didn't come back. But I was wrong. Taking that jump, Shadow, it was a mistake. All of it was. I thought I was strong enough to stop her on my own but I wasn't. I'm so weak. She broke me." I kept my eyes on my hand in his.
"You're stronger than you think, Little Bird. You did stop her. At least from what Jason said, you did." He brushed his other hand across the bandage on my temple.
"What did he tell you?" I wasn't sure I actually wanted to know.
"That you confronted Victoria, who wasn't the least bit remorseful about what she did, and she tried to get you to understand her point. You didn't take it so well, apparently pushed her off a roof and through a window," He gave my cast a light tap, "That was the gist of it."
"Before you say anything else, I know I'm in trouble from now until forever. I accept that. I gave Jason the Shadow suit and everything I had dealing with Victoria. I'll let him decide what to do. I just want to be done with all of this. I just want to feel normal again," I finally looked at him.
"I know Sweetheart, but this is your normal now. I'm sorry I couldn't protect you from it."
"You know, Aunt Cass told me something after we fought when I was home for Anni's funeral. She said no one tells you that knowledge comes at the cost of your innocence. She was right."
"Cass was always the most observant of us all," He gave me a solemn smile, "Did you at least find what you were after?"
"I'm not really sure what I was even looking for anymore," I gave a humorless laugh, "All this trouble and it resulted in nothing."
"I'm sure that's not true. You just can't see it yet. Give it time," he patted my hand, "Now, we do need to talk about your punishment."
"Yeah, I knew that was coming."
In the end, nothing Dad could do was going to be worse than whatever I would put myself through. I think he knew that. My punishment was that I had to work for Commissioner Gordon after school the rest of the year and for the summer, unpaid. If I wanted to investigate criminals that badly, then I could at least work for the police. That wouldn't be so bad. The worst part, in my mind anyway, was that I had to go to therapy. Dad had a few therapists in mind and would allow me to choose one, but I had to go.
"It's probably something I should've had you do long before now," Dad admitted, "but if you really feel broken like you said, then having someone trained to talk to is going to help more than anyone in this family."
I really couldn't argue with that.
It was late by the time we emerged from the cave. Jason and Terry were nowhere to be seen. Bruce was waiting for us at his desk in the study, unsurprisingly. Him and Dad seemed to have a silent discussion before Dad stepped out of the study. Honestly, I should've expected Bruce would want to talk to me too. The funny thing was, I wasn't nervous. The hard part was over after talking to Dad. I really didn't care as much about Bruce's opinion. At least that's what I told myself.
"Here," he slid a glass of water and my pain meds towards me. Not how I thought this conversation would start, "Jason said you'd need these whenever you reappeared."
I took them wordlessly and sat on the worn couch. Jason was right, I did need them. My shoulder in particular was hurting again. We sat in silence while I sipped on the water. I wasn't really sure how to start a conversation with Bruce anymore. Not that I had ever been sure.
"When did you tell Jason to start following me?" I asked as I finished the glass. Might as well start somewhere.
"The morning you left for Stanford. I realized you had another suit with you. But he had been keeping an eye on you before that," He walked over and sat next to me on the couch.
"Becoming less observant in your old age?" I teased, ignoring that fact Jason had been watching me longer than the past week. One thing at a time.
"More like complacent. I should've known when you gave the other one up so easily. You're too much like Dick. Stubborn as an ox."
It was nice to hear the similarities between Dad and I after going for months being compared to Jason. I rubbed my shoulder, trying to stop it from aching while the meds kicked in.
"Is that the same shoulder from before?"
"Yeah. I re-dislocated it crashing into that window. Among other things," I limply waved my cast and let it fall into my lap, "Bruce, I'm sorry. I can't imagine that your relationships with Dad or Jason are in a good place after what I've done," I looked at my hand. Eye contact was hard today.
That had always been my problem. I never thought through how my actions would affect others. Breaking that kid's arm? Got me sent away from every person and thing I had loved. Look what happened to Anni after that. Not telling Dad I knew about Batman? Hurt my relationship with him. I had never fought with him so frequently than in the months between then and now. Going after Victoria despite everyone telling me not to? I had hurt so many people with that alone I didn't want to think about it too hard. It was like I was purposely setting myself up for this insanity and never learned from it when it all ended the same way, me with a head and heart full of remorse and regret.
"Don't worry about me. We've been through much worse than some teenage rebellion. Both of them were strong willed when they were teenagers. I suppose they got that from me," he mused.
"You said it, not me," I gave him a slight smile, "But really, I should've listened when you all told me to stop. Can you promise not to tell Dad what I'm about to say?" I looked at him pleadingly. The lump that had settled in my throat grew.
"Within reason," he agreed.
"I didn't try to save myself when I tackled Victoria. Jason had to save us," I was trembling again, "And if I'm honest, that's the part that terrified me the most. Not what Victoria was capable of, not of what would happen after. That dark part of me is horrifyingly strong," I could feel the tears welling up again. I looked at him, feeling more vulnerable than ever, "Bruce, what do I do if that happens again? I'm already too weak to fight it," I could feel the tears rolling down my face.
I had never seen such a sad understanding on anyone before. I knew he understood exactly how I felt. He had been there before and didn't have a good answer for me. I was comforted and heartbroken all at once.
"Does it get easier? To live with this guilt?" I asked. He wiped a tear away with his thumb.
"Eventually. Just like grief, time will make it easier. People are fluid. What you feel defines you today might not be the case in a few months. Some are more fluid than others."
"How fluid are you?" I sniffled as he handed me a tissue.
"Not as much as I should be. But you, Jamie, are more than you think you are. Another thing you and Dick share."
I sank further into the couch. "What am I supposed to do now? I failed at being Shadow, my mother is still out there, and everyone hates me."
"No one hates you. Upset and disappointed in you, yes. As for your mother," he walked back over to his desk, "Jason said you wanted him to decide," He grabbed the folder and flash drive I had kept all my info on Victoria. He stood in front of me, holding it out.
"Why do you have that?" I looked up at him.
"Jason decided that this was your fight and you need to finish it. Shadow hasn't failed."
I took it from him, reluctantly.
"I added some more information that Damian found on MedCorp's overseas operations. It's not much, but it'll help send Victoria and any accomplices to court at the very least."
"And you really think after the shit I just pulled, I still should be allowed to make my own decisions regarding this?" I didn't even think I should be allowed to.
"She's your mother."
Thanks Bruce, that really cleared things up for me.
"Is there anything else? Because I really just want to sleep," I was exhausted. More than I had ever been in my life.
He held out a hand to help me off the couch. I took it and was unexpectedly pulled into a hug.
"You're stronger than you think. You can fight the part of you that wants to give up. If it becomes too hard, I'm here for you." He placed a kiss on top of my head. If I wasn't so tired, I probably would've cried again. I opted to hug him tighter instead,.
"Thank you, Bruce."
Convo summary: Jamie tells Bruce she feels guilty that she didn't try to save herself and she's scared of that part of her. SHe asks Bruce what to do if it happens again. Bruce doesn't have an answer because he's felt like that before.
Boy what a chapter.
I'm sorry it's been forever since I've updated. The last six months I've been dealing with my own mental health issues. I got the help I needed and am doing much better!
Next chapter will be the last, with a possible epilogue too. Happy Holidays to all celebrating something and a Happy New Year! Hopefully 2020 is brighter than 2019!
Fun Fact: Jamie loves the snow. Something about it always made New York (and Gotham) less harsh looking.