Jason wasn't much for participating in small talk. He didn't see the point in it, unless it was for 'on the job' purposes, also known as interrogating the suspect. When he was Robin it was different. The naiveté of patrolling in Gotham required something to pass the time and calm his fears. Talking was the one thing that could cover up any doubts or anxiety of being a teenage sidekick chasing down psychos in the most dangerous city on the East Coast. Plus, the constant chatter was enough to get under Bruce's skin, which only made Jason want to talk more.
Lately, since Bruce had kicked him out of Gotham, Jason had been avoiding talking to anyone in the family. Something must be up because Barbara had left him six voicemails and four text messages. Alfred had left three voicemails, and Damian one text message that just said, 'Come home'.
Jason was not interested in returning to Gotham. The message Bruce sent him was loud and clear. Although they had cleared things up between them, it wasn't a great idea for them both to be in the same city right now. Plus, shooting Cobblepot in the face on live television tends to put your name on numerous most wanted lists.
Jason's cell phone interrupted his thoughts. It was Barbara, damn was she persistent. It was best to just get this over and done with. Jason wasn't sure how much longer he could keep avoiding her calls.
"Barbara, I can't talk right now, I'm on a stakeout." Jason lied, hoping to cut the conversation short.
"Jason, don't hang up. It's important."
"It better be, what is it?"
"It's Dick…he's been shot." Barbara muttered, her voice cracking at the last word.
"Who'd he piss off his time? I'm sure he'll be right as rain in a few days, Babs."
"It's bad, Jason. He was shot in the head. The doctors have him in a medically induced coma to reduce swelling."
All the air in Jason's lungs left and what little bravado he had faking this conversation was slowly dissipating. Medically induced coma? This wasn't good. Jason felt bad for being such an asshole to Barbara. The preemptive strike was a cover in case she started to side with Bruce.
"I don't know if you heard, but I'm not allowed back in Gotham."
"Yeah I know, but who cares what Bruce thinks. This is different. Dick needs you."
"Why? He has you, Bruce, Tim and Damian. He doesn't need me."
"Don't sell yourself too short, Jason. He does need you."
"He's at Gotham General room 237. Bruce always visits during the day, so he won't notice if you come at night. I'll even scramble the CCTV cameras so no one knows your coming."
"Fine. I got to go."
Jason arrived at the hospital just after visiting hours. He hated going to hospitals. The overpowering aroma of antiseptic hanging in the air always stung his nose. Not to mention the obnoxious sickly sweet scent of the hospital grade room deodorizers that neutralize scents consistently made him nauseous. The bright florescent lights hurt his eyes, and the overall temperature always made it too cold to stay comfortable.
He stuck to the shadows making his way to Dick's room. Lucky for him, Dick's room was the farthest from the nurses' station giving him a clear view of the best time to sneak in. All the nurses were busy, not one of them was looking up in Jason's direction. Without further delay, Jason took advantage of the lull, and snuck into Dick's room.
Jason concentrated so much at sneaking in, he didn't prepare himself for what he was going to see once he reached Dick's room. Looking upon the hospital bed, Dick was unrecognizable. His head was shaved and completely bandaged. A ventilator was taped to his mouth to helped him breath, electrodes stuck to his chest to monitor his heart rate, and a blood pressure cuff wrapped around his arm.
He couldn't take his eyes off his brother. It was like staring at a car accident. Completely trauma inducing, yet impossible to keep your eyes away from looking at the damage. Barbara was right, this was bad. Seeing Dick so immobilized and silent was unnerving and unnatural. The only sounds filling the room were the ventilator and the heart monitor. The constant beeping was slowly starting to get on Jason's nerves. If he didn't concentrate hard to tune it out, it would take him back to the warehouse. The warehouse was not where his head needed to be right now. It needed to be here, in the present with Dick. Jason wasn't used to Dick being so still and quiet.
Say something, Jason!
"Well Dick, I'm not going to lie, you look like shit."
"Yeah, I suppose I look like shit too, but I think you win this round. Sorry I haven't been around lately. Kinda got kick out of Gotham. I'm sure you saw what happened…everyone who had a tv saw it. And save it, I don't need a lecture."
Actually, at this moment he was looking forward to a lecture from Dick. Anything to hear his voice and drown out the damn beeping.
"Cobblepot is still live, by the way, so "technically" I didn't kill him, though it wasn't for a lack of trying. Son of a bitch deserved that bullet to the eye."
The more Jason talked the more aware he was that this one-sided conversation was going nowhere. It was awkward as fuck, and more than anything he really wanted feedback. Any feedback to drown out the beeping.
"You remember Bizzaro and Artemis? Of course you do, you all had fun busting my chops the last time you were in town. Well they're gone. They disappeared into some kind of pocket dimension. I have no idea where they are, and it was the same night Bruce kicked my ass for shooting Cobblepot. Luckily Roy came just in time to get me out of there."
It still stung to think about Roy. It had barely been two weeks since Bruce had tracked him down and told him what had happened. All Roy had wanted to do was to go get his head straight and get sober. Instead he ended up getting killed by a super at the very place that was supposed to help him get better. This was something he was not going to tell Dick. Dick didn't need to hear about what had happened to their archer friend. It was best to keep that piece of information to himself.
Barely an hour had passed and Jason was itching to leave. He hadn't expected his visit with Dick to start with all the bad stuff that had happened to him. But there wasn't anything coming to his mind to talk about and the beeping was starting to create an underlying panic in him if he didn't talk to drown it out.
"I'm going to go, Dick."
Jason turned toward the door and he could have sworn the beeping sounds of the heart monitor started to slowly increase. He stared at the monitor and sure enough Dick's heart rate was increasing. Jason started to panic. He didn't need a nurse coming into the room and finding him visiting after hours.
"Whoa, whoa, Dick, calm down please." Jason soothed, awkwardly patting Dick's hand. "I'll…I'll be back tomorrow night. I promise. I'll bring Back to the Future. Does that sound good?"
Jason watched the monitor and waited. Soon enough Dick's heartrate started to regulate back to normal, or the same as it had been before Jason announced his departure.
The next night Jason did as promised. He snuck into the hospital after hours. He waited out looking for the perfect time to sneak passed the nurses station. As he reached for the door he could hear some low murmuring. Someone was in there with Dick. Jason used his talents of stealth to get into the room. It was dark like it had been the night before. Whoever was in here, was now hiding in the shadows of the hospital curtains. It was then that he noticed Tim's bag.
"Dude, I can see your bag and your shoes." Jason teased. "I thought Bruce taught you better at stealth."
Tim sheepishly came out from behind the curtain. He looked pale, and tired. His eyes looked red-rimmed and wet. He gave Jason a tight smile before turning his face away to wipe at tear.
"Sorry, I thought you were a nurse. I'm a bit out of practice with my stealth."
Shit, had the kid's been crying?
Jason started to get nervous at the prospect of having to cheer Tim up. Cheering people up was not one of Jason's 'gifts'. It was Dick who always encouraged them with his nonsensical pep-talks and words of affirmation. The only 'gift' Jason had was sarcasm, and maybe a listening ear if he was in the mood.
"You alright, Timbers?" Jason asked, patting Tim awkwardly on the shoulder. "I can leave so you can be alone and spend some time with Dick. We were just going to watch a movie." Jason shrugged, holding up a portable DVD player and the Back to the Future trilogy.
Just then the same thing that had occurred the other night with the heart monitor started to happen again. Dick's heartrate started to increase. Jason instinctively went over to Dick and touched his hand.
"Hey, hey calm down, Dick. Tim is here." Jason whispered. "I'll stay, but I know Tim wants to spend some time with you too."
"What's happening?" Tim asked, looking at Dick and taking his other hand.
"It happened yesterday when I was here and told him I was going to leave. His heartrate only decreased back to normal when I promised I'd be back."
"That's interesting. I guess you're his favorite."
"Yeah, right. Um, do you mind of I stay?
"Not at all."
Jason set up the portable DVD player and started the movie. They both found chairs and positioned them on either side of Dick's bed.
"So, what have you been up to, Tim? I haven't seen you in awhile."
Tim shrugged his shoulders. "Just road-tripping with Steph. Bruce thinks we're at IU, we didn't tell him we were taking a 'detour' in the other direction. We just got back a few days ago."
Jason had a feeling there was more to it than just 'road-tripping'. Tim didn't do anything without a plan and a purpose. If he wasn't going to tell Jason straight out, Jason wasn't going to push for answers, not yet anyway. Whatever it was it had to be big if he had lied to Bruce about going to Ivy University. Tim was likely in the middle of telling Dick about his little adventure when Jason walked in. Still, it couldn't hurt to try and press a little.
"Road-tripping with Steph? Is that all?"
"Yes, so what have you been up to?"
Jason grinned. "The usual, traveling around the world, stopped in Gotham and shot Cobblepot in the face; pissed Bruce off; got kicked out of Gotham. You know, the usual. What led you here to the hospital?"
Tim stiffened at the question. Jason could see that this was a sore spot for Tim. By the looks of things, Jason guessed no one had told him or prepared him for what to expect when he saw Dick.
"I went to Dick's apartment to crash for a while, but he wasn't home. I tried getting a hold of him, but he wasn't answering his phone. I got worried and called the manor and that's when Alfred broke the news to me. I didn't know it was this bad, Jason. Does Bruce have any idea who did this?"
There wasn't a doubt in Jason's mind that Bruce did know who had done this to Dick. Once he got home from his visit Jason had called Barbara. She told him everything. How Dick had been on the GCPD roof as Nightwing with Batman and her dad. How the shot had came from an abandoned building adjacent from the roof. She did not however, tell Jason who had shot Dick. She was either withholding information, or she genuinely didn't know. From her description of the shot, it sounded like it had been done by a professional. If this was done by a professional, who had ordered the hit and who was the intended target Dick, Bruce or the Commissioner? Jason started to wonder how many villains they knew that were also snipers?
Jason shared all of this with Tim, keeping an eye on the heart monitor so as not to upset Dick. The rhythm didn't change, so he continued to tell Tim what he knew from Barbara.
"So you think it was a professional hit and the target may not have been Dick?"
Jason shook his head. "I don't know. I think if Dick was the target, the angle of the shot was intentional, to maim but not be fatal."
The tension in the room was palpable with the discomfort of the topic being discussed. Tim looked downright nauseous but also like he was analyzing theories. The little detective was back at work.
"Can we talk about something else?"
"Yes, please, so you and Steph are pretty serious?"
Tim glared at Jason. Apparently that topic was off limits for discussion as well. They watched the rest of the movies in marginal silence sharing a package of Oreos between them. Tim's constant criticism of how the writers portrayed time travel kept ruining the experience.
"That's not how time travel works! Dick likes these movies?"
"It's one of his favorites growing up."
The third night both Jason and Tim agreed to meet at the hospital for another night visit with Dick. Tim proposed a theory that while Dick was in a medically induced coma, he was somehow able to fixate on certain words like, 'go', 'leave' and 'alone'. These words said aloud sending Dick into a panic and increasing his heartrate. The only person that triggered this odd occurrence in Dick was Jason. Jason brushed it off as a coincidence. They both wondered if Dick was afraid of being alone, so they decided to have another movie night in his room.
They both snuck in expertly without notice from the nurses or medical staff. They made it to the door when they heard someone sobbing.
"P-please Richard, p-please wake up."
Dressed from head to toe in his Robin gear, Damian was sitting in a chair by Dick's bed. Hunched over with this head in his hands, shoulders shaking in uncontrollable sobs. Both Jason and Tim froze. They had never before seen Damian so broken, emotional, and hopeless. Tim hesitantly walked toward Damian and lightly touched his shoulder.
Damian gasped at the touch and his face looked murderous. For a second Jason thought the kid was going to punch Tim, so he made to step in-between them to block any punches. But before he could reach the two boys, Damian launched himself onto Tim in fierce hug. The dam broke and fresh tears started to flow from the young boy once more.
"T-Timothy, w-why won't he w-wake up? It's b-been a week."
Still in shock at the contact and the use of his first name, Tim slowly reciprocated the hug rubbing small circles on Damian's back. He looked at Jason for help, but Jason was just as bewildered by the boy's actions as Tim.
"He still has swelling, so they are keeping him heavily sedated. It shouldn't be too much longer."
"I hope Father found the son of bitch that did this."
"Whoa, D, language." Jason joked.
Both Tim and Damian snorted at the chastisement.
"Why are you both here?" Damian asked, breaking the embrace. "Did you follow me? Did Father send you? I had to sneak out to come here. Father thinks I'm with the Titans. I'm not leaving him alone!"
Jason had to admire Damian's tenacity. The kid had it in spades. He was the only assassin trained 13 year old he knew that also had a soft spot for Dick. If Damian was determined to stay somewhere, there was no budging him to leave.
"Slow your roll, D. We're here to watch a movie like we did last night. We didn't follow you, no one sent us, and why is everyone lying to Bruce"? Jason scolded. "Did I just say that out loud? That was weird."
"No one is going to make you leave." Tim reassured. "You want to stay, by all means, stay."
Jason set up the DVD player and turned on the movie. The boys watched in silence for a little bit before Damian interrupted the movie with his news.
"I-I know who shot Richard, but Father made me promise not to tell anyone."
He spoke so softly Jason wasn't sure he heard him right. Both he and Tim looked at each other trying to confirm through mutual stares that they had heard the same thing. Jason paused the movie.
"Why would B make you promise not to say anything to us?" Tim asked.
"He's probably afraid we'd go after the fucker and make him pay."
"Dude, Jay, language."
Jason rolled his eyes. "It's not like he hasn't heard these words or used them himself."
"Who was it, Damian?"
Jason wondered how much coaxing it would take to get Damian to betray Bruce's trust. It wasn't fair to put that kind of pressure on a 13 year old, regardless if he sometimes had the mind of an adult. He was still a kid, and right now this kid's oldest brother and favorite person was in a coma from a gun shot wound to the head.
Damian closed his eyes and took a deep breath. "KGBeast did it. Father thinks Bane ordered the hit, and that Dick was the intended target. But there is no evidence to back it up, it's just speculation."
Jason looked at the heart monitor to make sure the conversation wasn't upsetting Dick. There was no change in Dick's heartrate, which meant Dick had no idea what they were talking about. The rhythm of the beats were steady.
"Bane? I feel like B has been dealing with asshole forever. Did he take care of KGBeast?"
"Father says he handled it, though not the way I would have handled it."
Jason knew all too well the way Damian would have handled it. He likely would have taken the asshole's head clean off with his katana sword. Jason also speculated that KGBeast was likely still alive somewhere. He would have thought anyone who intentionally hurt Dick would have gotten a swift death from B, but no. No killing, even if the victim was Dick.
"Also, the neurologist doesn't think Richard will remember us, that his injury was far more extensive than what was previously thought."
This news must have been what had caused the breakdown in Damian. The thought that Dick's old life would be forever changed and forgotten. The cruel inevitability that Dick would forget Damian and all that they had shared together through the years as brothers and as partners. The fear that when Dick finally did wake up, he'd be a completely different person.
Jason had no idea what to say to make Damian feel better. This wasn't his department in dealing with little brothers. His idea of helping to make someone feel better was offering to hold a punching bag or spar with them. There weren't any words to say to help Damian or Tim during this tough time. All they could do was wait and hope that just their presence was enough to help bring Dick back to them.
Tim put a comforting arm around the young Robin. "That is why we are here, Damian. To help Dick remember who we are and who he is to us. Let's finish the movies. It's other one of Dick's favorites."
Good save, Timmy.
They continued to watch all three movies together, though Damian's questions and criticism of the writing was starting to remind Jason why he never watched movies with Damian.
"Wait, Darth Vader is Luke's father?"
"Yes, you mean you didn't see that coming?"
"Spoiler alert, Leia is Luke's sister."
The fourth night the three of them had conspired together to meet at the hospital for another movie night in Dick's room. Their combined years of training helped all three of them get into the room unnoticed. But Jason could see that someone was already in the room with Dick. Bruce was sitting in a chair at Dick's bedside holding his hand and talking softly to him. There was evident sadness in Bruce's eyes as he gazed upon his son laying silent and still in the hospital bed.
The only change in Dick's condition was the removal of ventilator.
The three Robins filed in silently, though Jason stayed by the door nearly ready to bolt. He wasn't too sure where Bruce's stance was on him being in Gotham. Would there be an exception for his presence where Dick was concerned?
Bruce looked up at all three of them with an unreadable expression. Jason suspected Bruce felt somewhat betrayed that all three of his sons had lied to him about their whereabouts.
"Father, I can explain."
"So can I, Bruce."
Jason remained silent and close to the door. He was preparing himself to be told off and kicked out by Bruce. It surprised him that Bruce wasn't gunning for a fight. He looked tired, weary and lost.
Bruce turned his attention to the two younger Robins. Tim looked almost fearful that he had been caught in a lie and Damian looked a bit anxious. Jason wondered if they both were preparing speeches to explain themselves and voice why they should be able to stay.
"Father, I know I lied to you, but I couldn't leave Richard alone. Not after what the doctor said. He has to remember who he is and his place in this…family. We have to be the ones to help him remember. I'm not going back home. I'm staying."
"I know, Damian. It's okay." Bruce reassured, putting a hand on Damian's shoulder. "I feel the same way. You…three should stay. I think Dick would appreciate it very much. Tim, when did you get back?"
"A few days ago. I-I didn't end up going to IU. Steph and I went looking for…"
"…I know where you went," Bruce interrupted. "Zatanna told me what happened. Did you find what you were looking for?"
"No, not exactly. Wait a minute, you knew? You knew where I was this whole time and you're not mad?"
Bruce sighed. "I'm disappointed that you couldn't tell me the truth about where you were going or what you were doing, but I was never mad. I trust you, Tim, that's why I had Alfred turn off your tracker."
Jason snorted at hearing the irony of Bruce being disappointed at not being told the truth of their whereabouts. Because the idea of one of them lying to Bruce was unconscionable, yet he is the one that can hold all the secrets and lies.
Thinking about how much Bruce knew in regards to who hurt Dick, and who was behind the hit was starting to eat at Jason the minute he saw Bruce in the hospital room. Hiding information from them in the guise of protection had always been Bruce's downfall. One would think he would have learned that keeping secrets only bit him in the ass and got people close to him hurt.
"Jason, you have something to say?"
Jason's eyes flashed at Bruce. He knew he was the only one among them who had the guts to confront Bruce with his twisted version of protection. Nothing good ever came from keeping secrets from them. They were a family. A family in the business of fighting crime. Shouldn't there be full disclosure when dealing with particularly horrible villains that put a contract out on one of them?
Here it goes.
"Yeah, did you take care of KGBeast?" Jason asked in a low voice.
Bruce's jaw clenched at the question. "I handled it, that is all you need to know."
Jason scoffed. "No, we needed to know all of this from the beginning. How long have you known that Bane was involved in this? Why would you keep something this big from us?"
He knew he was playing with fire going down this line of questioning with Bruce. He didn't care. He was angry. He wanted Bruce to know how angry he was with him.
"I said I handled it." Bruce growled. "Bane only wanted me. You remember the last time you three had to be involved?" Bruce pointed at Jason, Dick and Damian. "He beat you three into unconsciousness and hung you in the Cave for me to find!"
"Well this time he involved all of us when he hired someone to shoot Dick." Jason countered. "He knew the way to get to you was by hurting one of us. You can't protect us by keeping everything to yourself."
Bruce's shoulders sagged, but there was still a little fight in him. Jason could see it in his eyes, or maybe Jason saw what he wanted to see, because he wanted a fight. He wanted to fight and avenge for Dick. KGBeast had to pay for what he did, and he sure as fuck knew how Bruce "handled it".
"He's still alive isn't he?" Jason taunted. "You couldn't even kill him for Dick."
Bruce crossed the room to him so fast, Jason actually expected to be punched in the face. He braced himself for the hit, but it never came.
"ENOUGH! You have a problem with me, Jason and the way I do things, you can leave. There is the door."
Jason had his hand on the doorknob when the sounds of Dicks heart monitor started to beep erratically.
"Guys…" Tim interjected.
"Father, stop it. Richard is getting agitated."
Bruce rushed over to his eldest son's side trying to calm him down, but nothing was working. No amount of hand stroking or soothing words from Bruce were helping to bring down Dick's heartrate.
Jason quickly made it to Dick's other side. He took his brother's hand, rubbing small circles with his thumb to soothe him. "It's okay, Dick. It's okay. Please calm down. B and I were just having words. I'm not going anywhere. I promise."
The beeping started to slow, showing that Dick's heartrate started to regulate again.
"What was that all about?" Bruce asked, looking at Jason for answers.
Jason kept his eyes on Dick. "He gets like that when one of us is leaving."
"No," Tim interrupted. "He gets like that when it's you that is leaving."
While the attachment that Dick had to Jason was flattering, it also felt misplaced. It seemed to come out of nowhere and why him? Why not Tim or Damian, or hell even Bruce? Whether Jason wanted to admit or not, Dick was his sense of security, could he really be that person for Dick? Maybe Barbara was right. Maybe Dick needed him after all.
Bruce left shortly after the incident with Dick's heart monitor resolved. Jason didn't push Bruce for answers anymore, mostly because he knew he'd never get them. He had made his point clear and he didn't need Bruce to tell him whether he was right or wrong. Jason knew problems festered with keeping secrets. Hopefully Bruce would get it one day.
"Can we watch the movie now, Jason?"
"Of course Damian, it's a classic. Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark."
"Another one of Richard's favorites?"
"Yep, so if you don't like it, blame Dick. He picked the movie."
They decided to continue the night visits as none of them could bear to leave Dick alone at night in the hospital. Sometimes it was all three of them. Other times it was just Jason. They all agreed to stop the visits once Dick woke up on his own. The nights weren't all spent watching movies. Tim liked to talk about anything, mostly the R & D gadgets he was developing for his new team, Young Justice. Damian liked to talk strategy, defense, and recently about the Star Wars plot. Jason was the only one who preferred watching movies. It eliminated the need for small talk, and while he could always easily talk to Dick, talking to Dick in a coma wasn't the same thing.
Jason wasn't good at the one-sided conversations like Tim and Damian. The best and annoying part of Dick Grayson had always been his constant chatter and puns. Jason knew he should be talking to Dick more. He just kept remembering that first night with Dick and how everything that had come out of his mouth was all the crap that had been happening to him over the past couple of months.
There were many things that he wished to say to Dick, things he had wished he had said under better circumstances. Would saying them now be too late? And even if Dick could hear him, should he be saying these things to him? Would the nice things coming from Jason make Dick think he was dying?
This is stupid, just talk to him, Jason!
"Well you're looking better. I still wish you'd wake up. The doctors eased off the meds a few days ago. I'm sure you're feeling better since they took out the ventilator…Thank God Bruce finally gave you a shave. That beard you were sporting was starting to look weird with your new haircut…It finally stopped raining. Now its just a really hazy grey with occasional mist."
Stop talking about the weather, Jason!
Beep. Beep. Beep.
Jason hated the beeping. It was like it was mocking him at his poor attempt at small talk. There was one story Jason had never told Dick. It was too embarrassing for Jason to share, yet it was something that he had always wished he had the courage to tell Dick. It might have made all the difference in their brotherly relationship as something that may have helped to draw them closer. While the story was slightly humiliating, there was also another reason Jason never shared the story.
Beep. Beep. Beep.
"I never told you this, but I saw you perform in Gotham when I was a kid. It was the night your parents…the night it happened. Anyway, my dad had lifted some tickets off an elderly couple at the entrance. It was the first and last time my dad took me anywhere special. But I got to see you perform. I got to see you fly, and it was by far the best thing I had ever seen in my life. You were so good on that trapeze. You weren't scared at all. In fact, it looked like you were having fun. Like it was just you and your parents up there. I remember screaming when you did that quadruple somersault. I remember wanting to learn how to do what you did. I also remember the disappointment in realizing that a street kid from Crime Alley was never going to be able to fly like a Flying Grayson.
"Did you know that you were the reason I chose gymnastics at Gotham Academy? No? Well, technically Bruce required it as part of training, but I never told him it was the only sport I wanted to do. I let him think it was all his idea, because, you know how Bruce can be. Gymnastics was a hard sport, but I didn't care. The hard work paid off in the end."
Jason knew telling him all this was stupid, but at the same time, it was cathartic. He wasn't much for giving out compliments or sentiments. He was more of the sarcastic cynic type. After all, he had an image to maintain, the tough street kid now Outlaw did not dole out mush. But if it would help Dick remember who he was, where he came from, and why he was in this messed up family, Jason was going to do his part. Right now, doing his part meant opening up and spilling everything.
Even though he missed hearing Dick's voice, having no feedback from him made this 'confession' easier to tell. It may be his only shot at truly telling Dick how he always felt about him. The admiration he had always had for the first Robin, but instead choosing to hide it behind derision and resentment. Right now was his chance to finally tell him the truth.
"I felt guilty for a long time knowing that one of my best days, was your worst day. I never knew how to tell you that you changed my life. While Bruce gave me a home, you gave me a dream that maybe one day I could be something great. But then I fucked up."
He could start to feel a lump form in his throat. Don't cry, Todd. Don't cry. But it was too late. His vision started to blur, the tears started to fall and more of the truth started to come out. The constant warring in his mind of how much he wanted to be like Dick when he was younger, but being repeatedly reminded that he would never be like Dick. It took years for Jason to finally be okay with never meeting that expectation, but the truth of this failure still hurt. He was never going to be Dick, but maybe he could be a good brother like Dick. However, lately he was failing at just being the older brother.
"I've been a shitty brother. Please wake up, Dick. I don't know how to be the older brother. Being the older brother right now sucks. I don't know what advice to give Tim. I have no idea how to cheer up Damian. He's so fuckin' moody. They're both looking for me to be you and I can't do it. I'm not you. I'M NOT YOU!"
Jason's breath hitched at the last statement. He didn't mean to yell, but everything started to come out in a revelation of sorts. The pressure of being the older brother now was overwhelming. It wasn't a role he had ever considered, because Dick was always there to pick up the pieces and shoulder the burden of breaking up little brother squabbles and resolving problems. Dick was the one that provided comfort and encouragement. Jason just stood by on the sidelines waiting until the storm dissipated. He never had to do anything, because no one ever asked that of him. Once in a while Tim would ask him for his advice, but only if Dick wasn't available. Damian would sooner go to Bruce than to Jason, which was fine by him. But lately they were both coming to him, and Jason struggled to be the person they needed him to be. He would give them the advice they asked for, but doubted its effectiveness for their situation. Most conversations ended with him telling Tim, to do the opposite of what he would do, because that is what Dick would do.
Jason put his head down on Dick's bed in exhaustion. "Please wake up, Dick. We need you. I…I need you."
He felt a heavy hand on his head. Uncoordinated fingers attempting to comb through his hair in uneven strokes and then a lazy croaky whisper. "D'on cry, lil w'ng."
Dick woke up.