Chapter 2 – Vini, Vidi, Vici

Jason's feet tried to fall out from under him as he all but pushed Tim up a slope that was thick with mud. The younger man looked as though each breath he drew physically pained him.

Shock.

That's what Jason guessed it was, and it really didn't surprise him. He couldn't quite grasp the fact that everything – everyone – was gone. The rebellion was over. Dick Grayson, the eternal ray of sunshine, was dead.


The final day of the rebellion began with a shudder that was felt through every level of the underground fortress as the first bombs were dropped – the Reach had found them. If the vibrations hadn't woken Jason, then the shouts of panic out in the hallways surely would have. He was up and out in a matter of minutes, rushing to be of help, but what he found was a command centre in chaos. Despite being four floors below ground, one of the impacts overhead had caused part of the ceiling and wall to cave in. Lying unmoving beneath the rubble was Billy Batson – a powerhouse knocked out of the fight before it had even begun.

When Jason entered the room, Dinah was closing Billy's eyes and declaring him gone. The heroes barely had a second to mourn this new loss before an alarm began blaring, declaring that the Reach had begun climbing into the lower levels. Batman – Dick – stepped up into that role he'd somehow fallen into, and took charge of the situation. He chose retreat. Maybe it was because of the loss of Billy, or some other reason Jason would never find out, Dick chose to not make a stand and fight back. Wonder Girl, Bumblebee, Red Tornado, and Batgirl were sent to hold the Reach off while everyone else made their escape. It was a picture perfect line of defence, but somehow Jason knew it wasn't going to be enough. He went to follow after them, except Dick grabbed his arm and held him back.

"I need you here Jay," his brother whispered, "If anything happens… I need you to promise me you'll look after Tim. Keep him safe."

"I promise," Jason responded after a momentary pause.

"Thank you," and with those words, Dick walked briskly back to his post by the young man in question.

Tim was helping to coordinate their defence, while Dick began to organise the retreat of everyone else. A tunnel built long ago would lead them to an abandoned hut on the other side of the Reach's fleet. Superboy led the way, while Green Arrow and Black Canary were in charge of ushering out everyone who had sought refuge with the heroes of Earth in the last few years.

"That's everyone, Batman we're good to go," the words had barely left Green Arrow's mouth when the walls begun to rumble again.

Jason watched on in horror as their exit was blocked by another cave in; Black Canary and Green Arrow diving backwards on the opposite side. He turned back to his brothers who shared similar expressions of shock. Dick suddenly grabbed Tim's arm and pulled him towards the broken down elevator.

"We'll have to climb out," he said as he pulled the old rusted doors open and directed Tim inside.

As Jason approached the elevator, Dick turned back to face him with a dangerously sombre look on his face.

"I'm glad we got a second chance," Dick whispered as he lashed out and all but threw Jason in with Tim before slamming the door down.

"Dick!" the pair cried out in unison as they tried to pry the door open to no avail – the sort of fault expected of disused and ancient technology.

"I love you both," they heard Dick call from the other side, "I'm sorry".

Jason just stared at the metal wall blocking him from one of the few people left alive that he would die for. Beside him, Tim continued to scream, shout, and bang his fists on the door.

Another violent rumble knocked Jason out of his stupor as the metal walls surrounding them shook viciously. It was fortunate that they were on the last floor, so they weren't about to hear a snap before plummeting to their deaths. Jason boosted Tim up through the panel in the roof before dragging himself up. Surprisingly, the ladder leading to the surface was by far the least decrepit object in the shaft – including the elevator itself. Their ascent was easy enough, they made it to the highest level, but the door they had hoped to use was unmovable. Whether that was because of the Reach's current attack or some other reason, Jason did not know. It forced them to take a more creative route to the outside, but one familiar to both Robins: a ventilation shaft. While crawling through the maze in the walls and roof, several areas that would have made for a quick exit were blocked for various reasons but mostly from cave ins. Jason was certain he had finally gotten them on a route out when the shaft they were in began to groan and strain. He turned to face Tim right before the section they had just crawled through buckled and collapsed. Jason threw an arm in front of his eyes to shield them, but he should not have feared for himself.

At Tim's cry of pain and distress, his eyes flew open. His younger brother was attempting to grip his leg in the confined space, which had a large gash on it that was already bleeding profusely.

"We need to get out of here," Jason growled in fear as he gripped Tim's upper arm, urging him to keep moving.

Tim simply nodded, his face pale, and the two continued on until they reached what Jason had hoped would have been an exit from the metal death trap in the walls of the compound - it wasn't. Through the debris at the end of the shaft they could see freedom, but chunks of metal and timber barred them from the outside.

"Damn it," Jason grunted in frustration.

"What do we do?" Tim whispered weakly.

In the mere minutes since the cave in, his pace had slowed tremendously, and he was leaving a steady trail of blood behind. Jason's growing anxiety was fuelled by this fact. As fast as his brain could muster, he thought through their options. They could go back, but there was a strong chance they'd land themselves in something even worse. They couldn't stay where they were either. They couldn't do anything! If it wasn't for Tim, Jason would have given up and gone down in a blazing glory of bullets, but he had to get him out of there. It was Dick's final... He had to!

Jason gave a shout of frustration that melted into more of a squeal of shear panic as the debris that had blocked their exit began to shake and move out of the way. A disgruntled Superboy appeared before them looking as though he had just come from fighting a one man battle against the Reach. Quickly, Jason pulled himself and Tim out into the open air and surveyed the war zone they had entered. There were no enemies in their immediate vicinity, but no full walls were left standing of the building that once stood proudly above their headquarters. Their home.

"You have to get out of here," Conner all but demanded once the pair were steady on their feet.

"No, we need to rendezvous with the others," Tim shot back instantly.

"It's too late for that," Conner said in dismay as he gestured with his head to indicate that Tim and Jason should turn around.

Jason had thought it strange that there had been no Reach nearby, now he saw why – they'd found the others. Far off in the distance, the Reach were undertaking a ruthless attack, right where the evacuation tunnel would have lead. All they could see from their distance was the multitude of explosions that were undoubtedly slaughtering their comrades.

"You have to run while you still can," Conner suddenly said, and then he was gone, jumping back into the fray.

To be perfectly honest, Jason wasn't sure what to do. He was frozen in place, torn between logic and heroics. That was until Tim strode past him on his left, as much as the young man could with the wound on his leg. With tremendous speed, Jason latched onto his little brother's arm to hold him back. Jason may at times be a self-sacrificing fool, but he'd made a promise. Tim was getting out of this place alive.

"Jason we have to help," Tim protested as the elder began dragging him further away from the fight.

"It's like Conner said," Jason replied without even looking at Tim, "It's too late."

Tim continued to shout and yell profanities, all the while trying to slip out of Jason's grip, but his supporting hold was too strong. Jason simply tuned out the chaos around him. Tim's complaints, the explosions and shouting from the battle. He only had one mission – to keep Tim safe. He knew in that moment that he would die before he failed Dick.

A greater explosion than any he had seen or heard that day rattled Jason's concentration. It was bright and tinged with purple, an ever growing purple light. Struck by its devastating size, Jason threw himself and Tim behind a crumbling wall, and prayed it was enough. The sound hit him first, as he tried to shield Tim even further. A deafening crackle filled with thunder.

He thought of Conner and those who had tried to escape.

He thought of Dick and the others below, and whether his older brother and Barbara had died in each other's arms.

He thought of a crowbar, a warehouse, and a countdown.

"Jason," a weak voice creaked.

Tim.

He looked down at his brother's pale face. The explosion had ceased, and in its wake was an eerie silence. Slowly Jason rose to his feet, helping Tim up with him. Across the desolated landscape Jason saw no one. Where the battle had raged, he only saw Reach. It was over. Without a word he began to guide Tim towards a muddy ascent that would mark their escape; the forest beyond somehow untouched by the fighting…

Jason knew then, without a doubt, that they would never truly know what had happened to everyone else. Were they captured? Killed? Did any of them, against all odds, escape as they had? Those were questions Jason didn't need nor particularly want answered. He had a more pressing question: what were he and Tim going to do next?


A/N

Next chapter will be called "Mourning Has Finally Come", and should be out before October! I have next to no free time at the moment with uni and prac, but holidays are fast approaching (yay)

Other story related news: I've decided that this fic is going to be solely from Jason's POV, because I like that concept over letting you in on all the answers. I want this story to have gaps and silences to fill in however you please!

Feel free to review x