Characters: Batfamily and other members of the DC Universe, playing in my sandbox.
Summary: AU. Death in the Family. There’s dying and then there’s being dead. And then there’s living.
Disclaimer: The characters used are not owned by me. They are owned by DC Comics.
Seventeen months and twelve days and Bruce walked into Wayne Memorial Hospital with more familiarity than he would ever hope to have with a hospital. Even Batman’s treks through the Gotham PD couldn’t rival how well the Wayne family had gotten to know the hospital, particularly the long term care area and staff.
He bypassed the initial greet desk, security desk, and visitor elevators, instead headed over to the private elevators towards the back and near the first floor lounge for the pediatrics doctors. He knew a few of those too, seeing as how his son was fifteen when he arrived. Even though the teen would have likely balked at being seen by a ‘baby doctor’ like he called them, he had a few years still left before he could see the ‘big boys doctor’ like Dick would teased back.
He took the elevator up to the fourth floor, took the first left, then a long walk through the cancer center that he had doubled his contributions to this year and into the ward that had been his son’s home for a year.
“Mr. Wayne!” a startled voice greeted him.
“Jaime,” he greeted, remembering the newest addition to the ward. He tried to smile, but he couldn’t bring himself to the gesture. “Is Dr. Keaton around.”
“She’s doing her rounds,” Jaime said, standing up from behind the desk. “She’s in with Phyllis, I’ll let her know you’re here. Would you care to wait in her office?”
Jaime was barely out of nursing school, still very green, but Bruce could tell that she was very professional and would rival Dr. Thompkins in how much she cared about her patients.
“Thank you, I will.”
Bruce headed down the hall to the right of the desk. Jason’s room was in the other direction, and normally he would go see his son before anything else, but – well he wanted to know what he was heading into before he headed into it. He was Bruce Wayne right now, not Batman the Dark Knight of Gotham. He was a father, not the mentor that had gathered his limp Robin in his arms from the rubble.
“Mr. Wayne,” he heard from behind him, even before he reached the office door.
“Dr. Keaton,” he said, turning and lending his hand out in greeting. “I came as fast as I could.”
“Yes, thank you. Shall we?”
Bruce followed the doctor inside her office. He felt jittery and he wasn’t sure if his heart had beaten the whole drive over there.
“Doctor?” Bruce started, standing beside the seat Keaton had indicated.
“I’m sorry to keep you waiting, Mr. Wayne. But, well we wanted to be sure.”
“What is it? Is Jason-
“He is still stable,” she interrupted, placing her hands up to still both Bruce’s words and thoughts.
Not dead, his mind finally sighed. Not dead.
“Thank God,” Bruce said, finally moving to sink into the offered seat.
“Jason is still on a ventilator, his heart is pumping firmly though. We had a cardiologist in earlier this morning who confirmed it. There’s been more blood flowing to his brain and-
Bruce had sighed at the good news. This was improvement, he knew. Granted, Jason had twice before exhibited signs of improving before his condition declined soon after.
“And?” Bruce glanced up from where he had unknowingly bowed his head.
“We had tests done this morning, to see about his brain activity, the results should be in any minute now. But, that isn’t why I called you.”
Bruce took a moment to pass a critical eye over the doctor. A Batman inspection if you will. She was nervous, her hands agitated in movement, but it wasn’t in dread. She met his look head on, not drooping in guilt or shame of failure. She spoke with confidence and wonder. Whatever she was waiting on, it was making her hopeful.
“Georgia was on the morning rounds,” she started. “She’s taken a particular interest on Jason because of his resemblance on her son, Chance. It’s not uncommon, we all have our favorites if you will, and Georgia sees to Jason as often as she can. She noticed it first, is what I mean.”
“I’m not understanding,” Bruce said, not liking that for the first time since he had contacted the doctor to take over care for Jason that the woman was beating around the bush. “She noticed what?”
At that moment, there was a knock on the door, and Keaton looked longingly towards it.
“Yes, come in,” she said, standing up. “I had the girls rush the results over, I hope you don’t mind.”
Bruce stood too, seeing that the previously mentioned Georgia entered with a familiar file in hand.
“Sara, Mr. Wayne.”
“Yes, Georgia, come in.” Dr. Keaton accepted the file and read it right on the spot. “I was just telling Mr. Wayne about how you saw Jason this morning.”
Georgia turned to look then at Bruce, and for the first time since he had met the woman, her green eyes gleamed with pleasure.
“I was almost too surprised to believe it,” she told him, her voice soft and edging towards the disbelief she proclaimed. “But we make certain to note how a patient is left in the night on last check just in case. And when I came in to see him two hours later, his hand had changed position, just so that I didn’t think much of it. Sometimes, changing an IV or the bed sheets and pillows, the patient is moved. But when I’m on shift, I tend to Jason and Lucille mostly. And –
Bruce was completely captivated in the story. Normally, especially as Batman, he would press the woman to get to the point, but since she was talking about Jason, about his son possibly moving, every word was a sweet sound that rejoiced inside him.
“I can’t believe it,” Dr. Keaton muttered, glancing quickly once more through the test results.
Dr. Sara Keaton glanced up at Bruce and for the first time since they had met, she smiled. Sure, she had smile on occasion before. A greeting to the other boys, Christmas time, Jason’s birthday; but those times carried with it a weight of pity and guilt and longing and sadness and so many other things that her current smile outshone them all.
“Mr. Wayne,” she said, presenting Bruce with the results page that he probably shouldn’t be able to read. “I believe your son is starting to awaken.”
Jason had tilted his head.
It was seemingly unimportant and newborn babies did more, but Jason had done nothing since his time in Europe and being a bratty runaway. He had stopped breathing on his own before the authorities had arrived on the site, once Bruce had already taken both Batman and Robin away and any traces of the Joker. Bruce had had to provide his son with air to keep him alive and since that moment the boy hadn’t taken his own breathe. He ate through the feeding tube up his nose and breathed through a larger tube down his throat. They kept him clean and changed any collections from him before Bruce ever got to visit him, but it didn’t take a genius to know that the boy couldn’t get to the bathroom on his own.
And he had tilted his head.
While the movement of the hand could have been as simple as a bump from a change of pillows, Georgia had actually been present when Jason had tilted his head.
She was changing his IV bag, checking his arm to make certain that they didn’t need to change the line, and he had moved his head towards her. She had shrieked. It was completely unprofessional and she was in tears by the time Jaime and Cynthia and Cole arrived to see what their fellow nurse had screamed about.
“He moved!” she shrieked, pointing at Jason and covering her mouth like a ten year old girl instead of a woman firmly in her forties. “My Lord, he moved!”
The tests to his brain showed increased activity. Blood was flowing freely to his head, and he wouldn’t be needing that blood transfusion that they had been talking about. All signs said that Jason Todd-Wayne was waking up.
The process, however, took a lot longer than Bruce had imagined.
“Did you know that there was a guy that was in a coma for nineteen years before he regained consciousness?” Tim said some days after, while they sat in the kitchen having breakfast.
“Not helping,” Dick muttered, peeking over his omelets to glance over at where Bruce was not touching his toast and reading the morning paper instead.
The twelve year old glanced over at their father and cringed. Bruce was doing a horrible job as of late to seem like he hadn’t a care in the world. Even Batman was being affected, having had to take the night off earlier than usual, pulling Tim back with him and stating that he had something to look into at the cave, when in fact it was quite obvious that the man couldn’t get his mind off of Jason.
“But,” Tim said, trying to sound encouraging. “He’s moved up on the GCS. He’s at least a four now, if not a five.”
“But he’s got to get to fifteen before he’s fully aware,” Dick countered. He didn’t want to squash the younger boy’s enthusiasm, he himself was stunned at the idea of having Jays back, but he didn’t want to give Tim, or Damian, or Bruce, false hope.
“That’s true,” Bruce said, bringing his newspaper down to the table beside his mostly ignored plate. “But it’s better than it was before.”
“Big deal,” Damian muttered not bothering to look up from his own breakfast. The talk of Jason was beneath the kindergartener. In fact, the thought that his father was so pleased by this turn of events displeased him. He had enough trouble trying to show his father that he did not need the presence of Richard or Timothy any longer, that he had a perfect son in Damian, that bringing a third brother into the mix was unacceptable. Not that anyone was asking him.
“It is a big deal,” Bruce started to say, but it was Alfred who actually got the words out. “It is a rather substantial matter, Master Damian, that Master Jason could come back to us. To think, that he would be a part once more of this family, and not just a –
Alfred stopped talking them, glancing over at Bruce. In that moment, Bruce saw the same dread and hope that he felt within himself. It was no secret that Alfred Pennyworth was as much a Wayne as anyone could hope to be. He held them together and was with the boys when Bruce couldn’t be. He knew that becoming the character of Batman took a lot out of him, and sometimes he wasn’t able to turn it off. In those precious moments that the boys needed an ear to hear or a shoulder to lean on, Alfred was their man. He was the backbone to the whole operation and it was even less of a secret that without him, Bruce wouldn’t be a third of the man he was.
Alfred grieved for his grandchild as Bruce did for his son. They had watched the angry little hoodlum-to-be turn into a youngster eager to please and start to broaden into a young man comfortable in his own skin and surroundings. The thought that Jason wouldn’t get to reach his full potential, that they wouldn’t get to see him become whatever it was that the boy longed to be, harbored heavy in their hearts.
“It is a very big deal, Damian,” Bruce said, addressing his youngest and only blood son. But after four boys, after nine years with Dick, the trauma of Jason, and the tragedy besetting Tim, Bruce knew that blood had absolutely nothing to do with it. He loved his sons, each and every one of them. He had chosen Dick and Jays, Tim had chosen him, and Damian had been made from him – they couldn’t mean more to him than they did.
“Okay, okay,” the five year old squirmed in his seat. He peeked up from his plate, between his bangs that had yet to be set into their proper place, and tried to become one with the furniture. He might not like the idea of brothers, he might think that one son –him- should be enough for Bruce Wayne and Batman, but he absolutely dreaded disappointing his father.
And the brother thing was starting to start to grow on him.
What no one ever tells you, is that waking up from a coma – not a three second ordeal.
Or even a three day ordeal.
More like a three week ordeal. At least, it was for the case of Jason P. Todd Wayne.
Jason had always been Bruce’s most stubborn son.
Dr. Keaton remained hopeful, and Georgia, the nurse that had first seen Jason move and had brought everyone’s hopes up, was almost a permanent fixture at Jason’s bedside.
Bruce should know, he himself found it rather difficult to stray from Jason’s side. He wanted to be the first thing that Jason saw. He wondered what in all had been going on in Jason’s head for the whole of the year and it was quite likely that the last thoughts through the young teen’s head would be that of the explosion and facing off the Joker.
Bruce didn’t want those to be his son’s thoughts. He wanted Jason to know that he was safe, loved. Cared for and far away from the clutches of his mind and that of the Joker.
For the time being, Dick and Tim had control of the nights, as Nightwing and Robin – as long as they had their respective work done and all. The fact that Richard was slacking in the grades department wasn’t lost on Bruce, or Batman, but he was trying to take Alfred’s advice and pick his battles.
“Come in,” Bruce stood, hearing a rather distinct knock on the door to Jason’s hospital room.
Dick poked his head in, greeting his father with a grin. “Good, thought we’d find you here.” He entered, Damian a displeased look on his face on one hand and tugging at Tim’s sleeve with the other. The younger boys were always rather reluctant to enter. Tim because he felt that he didn’t know Jason enough to invade in such a personal space and Damian, who knows really – the kid could dislike the idea of hospitals, of comas, of Jason, of everything listed, of something completely different, whatever the reason Damian didn’t share.
“Boys,” he smiled, moving forward to greet them; combing his fingers through Damian’s hair as the five year old leaned against his side, hugging Tim tightly with one arm before taking Dick in the same hold. “How was school?”
“Objectifiable and discriminative,” Damian muttered at his side. Then, he produced a paper from the inner folds of his jacket and held it up towards Bruce. “I was told you’d find this adequate.”
Bruce smiled, taking the offering in hand. It was a crayon drawing – something Bruce had never seen his youngest produce – and it consisted of mostly blacks and greens and it had the squiggly lines forced together to say ‘happy father’s day father’.
Bruce smiled. It was the middle of November, nowhere near Father’s Day, but every time that Damian had been forced to produce a ‘childish and unbecoming’ craft, he had wrote out the words ‘happy father’s day father’.
Sometimes, it was such a great thing having an odd child like Damian as his own. Even if the child in question glared at his kindergarten teacher on a daily basis, from the moment he got dropped off (or abandoned, as Damian called it) and picked up (rescued), he glared at the poor woman, whose only crime was trying to teach rich people’s kids how to draw within the lines and not eat glue.
“Thank you, Damian,” Bruce said leaning down to kiss the top of Damian’s head and rolled the odd drawing up to place in his jacket. “I found it more than adequate.”
Damian nodded. He didn’t need nor appreciate being told that his drawings were amazing and that he was an artist or anything. But he was supposed to follow the teacher’s directions. And she had wanted him to draw.
Dick was sitting at the edge of Jason’s bed, reminiscing on his brother and blocking out any answer from his own day.
Tim had maintained himself by the door. He looked quite intensely at his shoes and the floor and Bruce doesn’t want to think that something was wrong. His sole focus of late had been Jason, and yes he’s aware that he’d probably been ignoring the other boys and that it wasn’t good to do so, but he’d given up on norm and etiquette long before now.
“Out with it,” he tells Tim, both knowing that the man won’t beat around the bush when the direct approach saved them all that much time.
“School’s fine.” Tim shrugged, and it’s enough for all present to know that school is anything but fine. And it’s not likely that the classes are giving his little genius any trouble.
“What’s the problem?” Bruce moved Damian over to the vacant seat and the boy happily sat down on it. He moved over to his middle, third son, and tilt Timmy’s chin up. “Tim,” he repeats himself, which he is not keen on doing.
“They’re calling him Trauma boy and they’re saying that he ODed or made a bomb that went wrong and,” Tim shrugged again.
Bruce was both pleased and upset. Upset was winning out, of course, the thought of other kids calling his son those names. The thought that Tim had to be subjected to such chatter and gossip and rumors. But, the fact that Tim was affected by it, that he had been bothered by it, well it meant that Tim was taking to Jason as a brother. And for that, Bruce was pleased.
He tried to focus on that.
“Jays would tell them all to stuff it,” Dick said from the bed.
“Dick,” Bruce said, catching the boy’s soft smile on his face before he glanced back at the still second brother. But it was true, Jason certainly had a way with people that had neither pleased nor charmed Bruce or Alfred.
Dick had been the main target of the younger boy’s taunts. Neither had taken to the other too warmly, and there were oh too often mean words and hurt feelings on both ends. There were plenty of times that one or both of the boys found themselves early in bed nursing sore bottoms and tingly tongues. The first year had been chaos personified, but they had been simmering down as they aged. They’d taken to conspire against him once or twice, and to surprise every so often on his birthday or father’s day and some holidays.
“Well, he would,” Dick said softer, looking at Jason. “And he’d tell you not to worry about it, Timmy. Once he’s back to his old self, Jason can prove them all wrong.”
The way he had said it, Bruce wondered what in all Dick had been hearing. If twelve year olds were tossing out names like that, what would college students been saying? What would their so called theories be composed of?
“If he’s back,” Damian said, frowning in Jason’s direction.
“Damian,” Bruce said, frowning at his youngest son and being completely ignored.
Bruce had all four sons in the same room. And for the time being, they were all alive and he was looking forward to their promising futures. He wasn’t going to let Damian’s pessimistic thoughts or anyone’s alter his belief. Jason would be back. He hadn’t fought for over a year just to give up now.
“Boys,” Bruce moved to lean against the chair that Damian was sitting on. He pulled Tim with him, taking the boy in a tighter hold than his greeting hug. “I know this is difficult, and I can’t tell you how to feel about things or how to deal with them. I’ve never been through such a situation like this either. But, we all know better, right? We know what happened to Jason, and we know he is not an addict and this was not his fault. He will pull through this. He’s been fighting for a long time, he’s fighting to get back to us, and we’re going to be strong for him too.”
“He doesn’t know about me,” Damian piped up. “Or Timothy.”
“It doesn’t matter,” Bruce said, sighing before he glanced down at his son. “When he wakes up, we’re all going to be there for him. He’s my son, your brother, and we’re all going to be here to piece together this last year for him.”
“That’s rather wishful,” frowned Damian.
“It’s hopeful,” Bruce corrected. “We’re hopeful, and we have to believe in Jason, like he believed in me to get him out safely.”
Everywhere else, Bruce Wayne was seen as a bit of an airhead. He was viewed as the rich, playboy persona he portrayed for the sake of his dual identity. But here, with his sons and around Alfred, they knew the real him. The World’s Greatest Detective and Gotham’s Dark Knight. They knew he could piece things together like no one else and that he made mind over matter a mission, not just a philosophy. He pushed himself to be the best and asked the boys to do the same. They were the best in their own standings too. No one could beat Dick in acrobatics, or Tim’s problem solving and memory, and Damian had clearly inherited his father’s relentlessness and chameleon qualities.
On the other hand, Batman was seen as a driven man, restless and unforgiving. He was untrusting and the only reason he was on the Justice League was so that he could keep an eye on the metahumans.
While all of that was partially true, neither persona was completely true. Bruce Wayne was a proud father of four boys, who he was very strict with and who he tried to be the best that they could be. Both at night and in the gleam of the spotlight that being a billionaire’s son created. So far, Dick, Tim, and even Damian were all gleaming bright in all fronts. Bruce just wanted Jason to be there too, right beside them, not tucked away in the hospital bed, alone.
No matter what anyone said, Bruce was capable of love. Ask his kids.
Return to Part One
End of Part Two
Continue to Part Three