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.
Most parents watch their children sleep.
There’s a sense of relief, of purpose, that a parent feels as they watch their newborn child peaceful in their sleep. As the child ages, sometimes when they sleep it’s the only moments of peace that the parent experiences.
Bruce Wayne was not exempt on this parental fixation.
While his nights consisted of more than relaxing, there were nights, ever since the first night that Dick had spent there, that found Bruce – and on a few occasion a very beaten down Batman – peeling into the boy(s) room and just breathing a sigh of relief. This was the reason he gave himself to fix Gotham. Before, he was trying to make his parents proud of him, to finish what they had started. Thomas and Martha Wayne were such big believers in the people of Gotham and Bruce couldn’t, wouldn’t , let the city rot.
He liked to think that his parents approved of his children. He liked to think that they would see him as more than the playboy, more than the masked crusader, and see the father that Bruce was trying so hard to be. He was no Thomas Wayne. He wished he could be, could be more like his father to the city and to his sons. But he wasn’t. It was better for the city to see him as an aloof young man, to think that the old money was being wasted on the lavish life he portrayed. They could think that the only time he spent with the boys were on their supposed ski trips and island hoppings. They could think he just took the boys as charity cases, as a means to keep his name on the minds and papers of the people of Gotham. But he knew better, and they knew better. His kids were his. Had they breathed their first breaths as Waynes or had his blood been pumping through their hearts and bodies, they still couldn’t be more his.
He would give his right and left arms thrice over if the boys, Dick and Tim particularly, could have their own parents back. Bruce knew that the life Jason had led, that Damian had been breed in, wasn’t ideal. He had saved Jason, though he could have done more for the boy, helped him of his anger more. There was still time for that, though. And as soon as Jason opened his eyes, things would be different this time around.
With Damian, things were different. He was the first father that the child had, and the only real parent the kid was going to get. Talia Al Ghul, Damian’s mother, was obsessed with Bruce Wayne, and she knew him as the Batman as well. She had wanted his child, but she hadn’t wanted a child, per say. She wasn’t known for thinking things through or clearly, and Bruce just had to be glad that she had had enough sense to realize that the child needed more than just the minimal food and constant training and threats that the League of Shadows provided. He was glad that he had only missed four years of his son’s life, that she hadn’t let things much further than that.
Dick had had two great and loving parents. From the moment his was born until the last moment he laid eyes on them, John and Mary Grayson loved their baby boy. He was their pride and joy, much like Bruce had been for his parents. While they weren’t able to give Dick everything, they did give him a lot of love and a work habit that Bruce envied. He wished he had had the sense of mind to concentrate like Dick was able to at a young age. (When the boy wasn’t jumping and leaping all over the place, of course.)
Tim, whose mother died when he was very young, had been raised by a very hard working father. The man tried to make the world a better place for his son, and Bruce respected the hell out of him for that. Jack Drake had loved his son, but the boy lived mostly alone. His father was only able to fully devote one week to him, during either his birthday or Christmas, when they would take a vacation just the two of them. Bruce knew that Tim treasured those moments now like gold.
Bruce was more than aware that he could never take the place of Dick, Tim, or even Jason’s parents. No matter how good he was to Jason, it wouldn’t change the boy’s past, his memories. It was what made Jason want to rid the filth from Gotham, but it was also what had made him leap out at the chance of meeting his mother. Maybe he thought things could be better. Maybe he thought that finding her would make all of the bad things from before insignificant, or less painful.
While he hadn’t seen their first nights, praised the days that they had finally learned to sleep through the night, had to get up at early morning cries – while he had missed all of that, Bruce still sought out to have as much of a normal relationship with the boys as possible. They had nightmares, and he praised the days that they slept peacefully all-night. They had their own firsts in the Manor, and he had silently watched them. Three boys had been grieving on their first nights there, and Damian had frowned his whole first night, peace not able to meet him even in slumber. They weren’t the traditional family, but they were family.
Bruce sat now, staring at the rise and fall of the ventilator driven breathing Jason was undergoing. Beside him, Tim had stretched out, curled up so as to not disturb the teen’s rest. His breathing was even, perfectly timed, and without a bit of a snore. To the foot of the bed, Bruce had laid the sleeping Damian, his arms draping over the edges and a slight snore on his exhale, so different than the statue he had been that first night Bruce had met him. Dick, currently fighting his own well deserved shut eye, was sitting by the window, his notebook in hand as he jotted down notes. Bruce had insisted that he do his homework, but he doubted the boy was taking that path.
Instead, Bruce kept watch over them, glancing from one child to the next. His sons, so different in their days and so alike in their nights. Each sought to prove themselves, to prove to him how brave they were, how talented, how smart, how fast. Everything that they couldn’t show him during the days, they demonstrated either on the rooftops or in the cave.
He was so proud of each of them.
At the end of the second month since Jason’s head tilt, Bruce was hesitant to respond to an incoming call from Dr. Keaton. If it wasn’t for Helen’s insistence, and how she had stood in front of him, glaring until he picked up the receiver, he might have missed the news.
Jason was fighting the ventilator.
Now, in Bruce’s mind, he thought of the young Jays, kicking and punching and with such vigor.
“He’s just coughing, Mr. Wayne,” Dr. Keaton explained. “He has yet to awaken, but every now and then, at least five times now, the machine has picked up his intents. He’s trying to breathe on his own. With your consent, we’d like to take him off of the ventilator, for a few hours at first, this afternoon.”
“Do you think it wise?” Bruce asked, his hands fidgeting with a pen from his desk. Bruce Wayne wasn’t used to displaying nerves or second thoughts or such a matter of discomfort. He was either confident or completely uninterested. But, when it came to his kids, some things he just couldn’t control.
“He would be on an oxygen tank, but with a mask instead of the machine doing all of the work. If things don’t look to be progressing, we’ll place him back on it. But, Mr. Wayne, I don’t want to give you or your sons false hope – but this could be what we’ve been waiting for.”
“Should I be there,” Bruce said, already starting to close up his computer files and stand up, glancing for his jacket. Helen, ever the queen she was, merely stood beside him, suit jacket and coat already in hand. “I can get there, half an hour perhaps. Its midday traffic and all.”
“We’ll wait for you, Mr. Wayne.”
“You let me know,” Helen as she walked beside him to the elevators. “And I’ll call ahead to Tom. Would you like me to contact the boys? Alfred?”
“Please, just Alfred. I’d rather tell the boys in person, only if things go well.”
Helen nodded and turned away, heading back towards his office as he made his way into the cart.
When all was said and done, Jason proved to be the fighter and champ and stubborn mule that Bruce knew he was. He coughed as they were pulling the tube out of his throat and with the exception of the first few trying minutes, where his body got reused to the tubes absence and its own job of inhaling and exhaling, Jason was signed off of the machine.
“I’ve never seen him like that,” Tim said that night, Alfred having brought them over once Jason had been breathing on his own for hours.
It was a bit sad for Bruce, that Tim had never met a Jason that wasn’t hospital bound.
“Just wait,” Dick said, his throat tight as he tried to hold off on joyful tears. “Any second now and he’s going to be spewing out a storm.”
“And getting his mouth washed out for his troubles,” grinned Bruce. Jason was notorious for his ‘street talk’ as Alfred called it, but cursing is what it was, and neither the butler nor the Dark Knight took kindly to it, as Jason all but soon learned.
“That’s harsh,” Tim frowned, not one for a bad word. Out of the four boys, Tim had never given Bruce any lip in that respect. No, Tim was careful with most every word he spoke. “He wouldn’t even be able to go get it rinsed out,” he added, jabbing a finger in the direction of the bathroom, which was on the other side of the room to the hospital bed.
“Yeah, and I’m pretty sure that antiquated punishment is frowned upon by the staff.”
“I would ground him” Bruce shrugged. “But it seems rather ridiculous, considering how long he’s been in here.”
“Force nature on him?” Tim said, frowning further at the thought. “Maybe a nice stroll through the gardens. Alfred had the new orchids just put in. And the greenhouse is superb.”
“Yeah, maybe.” Bruce smiled, grateful to be talking about Jason up and moving, even his likely future punishments and slip ups. Anything that wasn’t the constant talk and absence of Jason’s presence.
The next day, when Alfred brought all three boys, Jason decided he’d take things a step further.
His toes wiggled.
His toes wiggled in response to being touched. Tim’s eyes had grown wide as he had hopped up to sit beside Dick, who was sitting once again on Jason’s bed. He bumped his elbow on Jason’s feet, ever careful to not disturb him, and he turned to look just in time to see a slow wiggle beneath the sheets.
Tim had yelped out and jumped from the bed. Not the greatest showing of courage from a Robin, but it was effective in alerting the others to the latest development.
“He moved!” Tim replied to their questions, pointing a frantic finger to Jason’s feet. “I, I touched them. I touched him and he moved!”
“Okay, we heard you,” Damian said, even as his eyes grew wide, glancing in Jason’s direction and moving to stand slightly behind Tim, leaning up against Bruce.
Dick leaned over and took to pressing the nurse call button.
“Do it again,” Dick said, glancing from Jason’s still face to his feet. “Tim, do it!”
Tim groaned and tucked his hands under his arms. Georgia appeared just as Bruce was moving forward.
“He moved,” Damian explained. “Tim did it.”
“I didn’t mean to!” Tim said, his eyes growing wide towards the nurse. “I’m sorry!”
“It’s okay,” Georgia smiled. “We want Jason to move. It means he’s starting to wake up.”
Georgia moved to check the machines, jotted a few things down. “How?”
Bruce tugged the blankets back, exposing the foot that Tim had bumped against. He could feel his excitement starting to build up, but he tried to control it, not even displaying a smile. He didn’t even want to delude himself into thinking something before it was confirmed.
He ran his fingernail just barely over the very tips of the toes, from one toe to the other. Nothing happened.
“It has to be harder,” Dick said, the call button still gripped in his hand. “Like Tim bumped him, not petted him.”
“Yeah, poke him,” Damian said, glancing up slightly to catch Bruce’s eyes before Jason’s toes once more took his attention.
Bruce glanced over at Georgia. The nurse nodded, seeming as rapped in attention as the others were.
He flicked at the second toe.
And beside it, the big toe twitched.
“Aaah!” Georgia yelped, a smile quickly forming on her face. “I’ll get Sara, you wait here!”
Both feet’s toes responded. Only the right curled up when Dr. Keaton rubbed a gloved finger from the heel up to below the toes. His ankles twitched slightly when touched. Even his knees were providing neurological responses.
“He’s ticklish,” Bruce said as Dr. Keaton stated that particular note for Georgia to write. “His knees were always the most sensitive.”
“And his feet too,” Dick added. He was sitting in the corner, the chair being pulled into the corner, and Damian was sitting quietly in his lap. Dick would be pleased with himself if the activity in front of them wasn’t taking all of his attention. Tim stood so close beside him, he was practically the third member of that seat.
“That’s great,” she smiled, nodding at Georgia to make note.
“Do you know when he’s going to wake up?” Tim asked, eyes now hopeful.
“I’m afraid it’s still very much a waiting game.” Dr. Keaton gave the pre-teen a smile. “If things keep going as good as they are, I think we’re looking at a few weeks.”
“Weeks?” Damian groaned. “Isn’t there something to make this faster?”
“The mind is a fragile instrument,” Dr. Keaton told the youngest Wayne.
“The mind is a tool, like every other part of the body. It can be trained and manipulated to suit one’s needs.”
“Dick,” Bruce frowned in his youngest direction.
“Right, um, guys how about some lunch?” Dick said, coming to stand beside Bruce and gripping Damian by the shoulders.
“We just had breakfast an hour ago,” Tim said, getting to his feet to stand beside his brothers.
“Brunch than!” Dick smiled, nodding in the doctor’s direction before leading them out. “You’re a growing boy, Timmy, you need more junk in your life.”
“You just want more cereal.”
The next thing to occur, once Jason was already breathing on his own and his feet were responsive (which started them off on giving him some kind of massage therapy thing) wasn’t until the next week.
Jason started to mutter.
Nothing concise or more intelligent than baby babble, but it was something. They began giving him droplets of water, to moisture his mouth more than to hydrate. He was still receiving all of his nutrition from the IV. He’d lost nearly twenty pounds over the year, looked about as small and starved as he was the first time Bruce met him, but he was coming closer and closer to waking up.
Dick cornered Bruce once Dr. Keaton and Georgia had left the room.
“What’s up, chum?” Bruce said, his face much more relaxed than it had been all year.
“I was just thinking, Jason’s going to wake up any day now. Really wake up.”
Bruce nodded. That was what the tests and doctors were saying. That’s what all his research and Tim’s encyclopedia-like facts were leaning towards too.
“Well, I just figured, maybe it’d be best if the boys stopped passing by here.”
Bruce frowned and looked at his oldest son.
“What? Why? Don’t they –
“I was thinking about Jason,” Dick interrupted. “And how he has no idea about them.”
Bruce stopped to think for a moment. While he had been going on and on about how Jason was family, how he was their brother and his son – especially to a disgruntled and disapproving Damian – he had forgotten the other aspect of the situation. Thankfully, Dick had picked up on it before there was any irrefutable damages.
Tim and a reluctant Damian may see Jason as their brother, even if they only knew him from hospital visits and stories others shared; Jason didn’t know them at all. Just a year ago, Batman had almost hung up his cape and Tim had popped out desperate and determined. Just a few months ago, Talia had abandoned his first biological son without as much as a backwards glance. And all along, Jason was here, in a hospital bed and unaware. Bruce would need the time to get the kid stable, Jason needed to worry about Jason when he woke up. Then he would tell him about the others.
“You’re right, Dick,” Bruce nodded. “It’s probably best that Tim and Damian keep to the manor until Jason has had time to process. Do you think the boys will be upset?”
“Damian won’t,” Dick glanced towards the youngest Wayne, who was currently leaning back in his seat and brushing through a book. “He’ll probably be glad to not have to keep stopping by here. And Tim will understand.”
“Yeah,” Bruce sighed, glancing over to where his youngest sons were. “Tim’s good like that.”
“And I’ll stop by, when he’s awake. Give you two sometime first.”
“Yeah,” Bruce nodded again, smiling over towards Dick. “I bet Jason will really like that.”