Title: (If Cupid's Got a Gun...)... Then He's Shootin' (2/2)
Fandom: DCU- Batman.
Rating: Heavy R.
Genre: ...uh. REALLY emo, but remember Tim's under the influence of drugs. Romance and violence in equal parts. Angst, anger and issues with self-worth, forgiveness and the like.
Characters/Pairings: Tim Drake/Jason Todd/Tim Drake.
Warning: Overall? LOTS. Attempted molestation of a teenage hero-in-costume. Swearing words. Jay being a good guy, with an entirely wrong set of morals. Explosions, gun fights, violence, drugs, death, blood.
Summary: It wasn't exactly "I love you" or even "I care for you", except that it was.
Notes: Takes place in the "(love) Until We Bleed" 'verse. This implies that Tim's on the prowl for his very own Jaybird, but Jay's got a very bad cause of the denial.
Eventually, Robin's senses cleared enough that he could retrieve his belt, stand on his own two feet, and feel his way out from behind the upturned table. With deliberate steps, Robin inched across the room, wobbling briefly whenever the sound of gunshots came to him from below. The door was hot, smoke-licked and grimy. It gave way easily under the smallest pressure, groaning on its hinges like an injured child.
Peering dazedly around, Robin finally realized he was inside an old warehouse, probably one of the many that littered the harbour district. The office were he'd been held hostage was separated from the storing area below by a rusty stairway. Dark columns of smoke and a dull, muted light moved restlessly beyond the wobbly railing. Casting a glance down, Robin saw a multitude of little fires scattered all over the floor and, in their flickering light, upturned crates, spilled equipment, glass-splinters and mean-looking metal tools.
A dozens or so, if Robin could trust his hazy eyes. And all of them twitching at least faintly, unless that was a trick of the light. Possible survivors, if they were administered the proper treatment. There was a button on his belt that would summon medical help to his location, and it was something almost instinctive that guided Robin's hand to it and pressed it down. All the better, because Robin was too busy looking for Red Hood amongst the destruction, to do anything that required any level of conscious thought.
Wide, startled eyes swept across the warehouse once, twice and – there. Robin held onto the railing, used it to drag himself forward, pushed and pulled until he could see the back wall.
There, the uninjured were cowering, drenched in sweat and other fluids, dirt speckled across their faces. Red Hood reared before them from atop a crate like a demonic preacher. The light of the flames licked at his mask from behind, cast sharp shadows across his featureless face, where the lenses stood out in sharp contrast, flaring white and hot like stars.
"It wasn't an hard question," he was saying, and the voice out of the helmet was not Jason's, Robin could swear it, it wasn't, because it was cold and sharp and unsettling, a dead voice, with no emotion nor inflection to it, and sounded nothing like the bemused rumble that had murmured his name so tenderly a few minutes before.
As Robin gaped, heart in his throat, Red Hood aimed a shot at the wall, the bullet ricocheting against a pipe in a rain of sparkles. The thugs cowered, some of them growling, the rest crying, shifting restlessly like worms on a hook.
There was a man in an expensive suit cowering at Red Hood's feet (the ringleader?) that Robin didn't notice until he was hauled up by the scruff of his collar. The gun's smoking barrel was pressed into the side of his neck. The man made a strained, little sob, like a scolded child, and flinched away from the pain. Red Hood yanked him back by the shirt like it was a leash, and pressed the barrel deeper into the sizzling flesh.
"But I'll ask again, just in case you're that dense. Which one of you losers put his greasy hands on my little bird?"
The man in the suit began to bawl, a litany of words mingling one into the other, with the occasional "I don't know" standing out sharply every now and then. Wordlessly, Red Hood raised his gun from the man's neck to his temple, and in a sudden burst of lucidity, the suit turned towards his men and screamed: "Hand him over! Whoever he is! Hand him over, now! Now! Nownownownow!"
Whoever he was, the suit had power enough, or money enough, that the cowering crowd parted almost immediately at his order. Many a pair of hands worked together to toss a single man out of their midst, before the thugs closed ranks again, huddling together like scared animals.
The man landed on his knees, expelling epithets in a voice that was familiar enough to make Robin flinch even at a distance. The ringleader was tossed away like a rag doll, and Red Hood sprang from the crane, landing before his new target in a perfect crouch. He waved his gun in the man's face in an airy fashion.
"That wasn't so hard, now was it?"
The man Robin had recognized as "Rick" peered up into the barrel of Red Hood's gun, grinning like a fool. He gurgled low in his throat, then aimed a clog of spittle at Red Hood's boots.
"You have no idea how hard I was before you pooped the party, you red freak."
The gun connected with Rick's temple, made him curl into a ball that Red Hood was only too pleased to kick.
And kick and kick and kick across the floor.
Robin needed to get down there something like five minutes ago. He was in no state to use his grapple line, but that's exactly what he did. He almost stumbled when he landed, still reeling from the concussion and what he hoped was not the residue of a rape drug.
"J..." he swallowed the name with a bit of an effort. "...RED HOOD!"
Red Hood didn't spare him a glance, but Robin's voice seemed to reach him,
(Mine, Jason had called him. My bird)
spearing through the haze of rage. His body locked up, freezing where it stood, a few feet from Rick, arm stretched taut and gun aimed at the man's head. When it came, his voice was low and questioning and it had lost that horrible edge, it was Jason's voice all over again, and,
(He's called me his bird)
Robin swallowed, nodding, when that voice called his name.
(My little bird)
Had Batman been there, he would've put himself in the line of fire, shielding the cowering man with his bulkier body as he tried to talk some sense into Red Hood.
Robin? Robin was nowhere near as bulky for that tactic to work even in his best of days. Besides, shielding Rick would've put too much distance between him and Jason, and any more distance between them was exactly the last thing they needed.
Instead, he positioned himself so close to Red Hood, that they could go for a hug, if Jason bothered to lower his gun. Close enough for a kiss, though Robin tried to steer his thoughts clear from that particular road.
He held his hands out, palms up in a placating gesture.
"Lower the gun."
"You've got the wrong man for that, baby."
"Don't you dare begging for his life. Don't."
Frustration was not something Robin should've let slip in his tone, but he was drugged and concussed and reeling from an emotional high. He snapped: "This is pointless!" and the sound of his own voice made him start to attention, made him reel back and draw an harsh breath in.
A ripple seemed to run down Red Hood's back, and "so you're telling me that avenging you-" hissing, Red Hood was hissing, now, "-avenging a Robin is pointless?" Voice hollow, cold, colder than ice, colder than death, "Oh, I know that. I know that Batman's little bird-boy can be beaten, can be blown apart with a bomb. He can have his throat slit by his own father and he can be replaced, but he can't be avenged. I know all about it."
Robin reeled back as if struck.
"But guess what? I don't friggin' care about the no-avenging Robins rule. This piece of shit drugged and almost raped really think..." he cocked his gun. The little click of the barrel snapping into place sounded louder than a hail of gunfire. "...I won't do a fuck about it?"
Robin moved closer, and closer still. Close enough that his shoulder all but brushed the crook of Jason's elbow, and his nose was inches from the lapels of Jason's jacket. Close enough that he could say, "Jason," and be heard by no one but the man standing before him.
"Jay," he said again, even softer, as if he were dealing with a wild animal, dangerous and likely to bolt. "It's all right. He didn't do anything."
"He was about to."
"You didn't let him, Jay." Saying his name, it seemed right. So he said it again, "Jay," and softer still: "Jason, please."
Red Hood didn't waver. He contemplated Robin's words for a moment, then said:
"He didn't avenge me. I was his Robin, and he didn't avenge me. Now it's my turn, and I won't make the same mistake. Maybe I was replaceable, I don't fucking know. But you... you're not. I have to do this."
Robin shook his head.
"Batman doesn't think of me any differently than-"
"You're not replaceable to me," Jason explained, low and rough and sending a flood of emotion spiking through Robin's chest. He closed his eyes. Licked his lips. His ears buzzed, his heart hammered, and not any of it was imputable to the drugs.
"I... I know of it feels, Jay. Standing by as someone you love is hurt. The desire to avenge them, whatever the cost." His voice was breezy and slurred around the edges, but his words? They were all manners of truth. Which made it all the more amazing when neither one flinched at the mention of love. "But... you don't have to do anything. I am here. Here. I'm safe. I'm whole. I'm with you, and you don't have to do anything."
"He'll try again. If I don't stop them, they always try again."
Robin allowed himself a smile.
"The way you scared him? I don't think so."
"I'm not the sort to rough the criminals up and let them go, Baby B."
Robin's voice, his whole posture, hardened at that.
"And I'm not the sort to stand by and do nothing as they're killed."
For a long moment, Jason faced him in silence. And not for the first time, Tim wished the helmet away, wished he could see Jason face, instead than trying to picture it, the exact slant of his eyes, the curve of his mouth. Was he smiling? Was he frowning? Was he looking at him the same way he'd done in the cemetery the first time they met? Looking at him like he was something filthy that it hurt to touch? Or was it the way he'd looked at him in that café, in that local? Like he was amusing and all sorts of precious and...
"And that's why people like you can never mix with the likes of me."
When he fired, Jason's body didn't even twitch with the recoil.
Tim heard a wet, gurgling sound behind him, a gasp of pain, and then nothing. His mind reeled for a moment, and he had to fight with himself not to let his eyes fall shut. There was a bitter taste in his mouth - something like ashes and like bile that had everything and absolutely nothing to do with the stench raising from the still-hot barrel of the gun.
Suddenly, Tim felt weary. He'd never wanted anything as much as he wanted to rip off his mask and curl up right then and there, curl up and let go, sleep, die, whichever came first.
He was tired.
Tired of wanting things he couldn't have, tired of how everything he cared about continuously slipped through his fingers. Tired. So tired. Tired of running after a man who seemed intent on pushing him as far away as possible. Tired of being pushed away. Tired of... of everything, really. Of this conflict. Tired, but...
Tim teetered, like a man suspended on a line. He took a step forward. Jason was still frozen in the same position, arm stretched taut before him, smoking gun held in a steady grip, head tilted towards Tim, waiting for something the helmet made impossible to decipher.
Tim knew what Jason was trying to prove. Do the sensible thing, Jason was telling him without words. I'm a killer, so hate me. We can never be, so run while you can. Run from this demon I've become. Run and be safe. Safe from me.
Tim took another step, the leather of Jason's jacket sliding against shoulderneckcheek, and raised his arms. The only visible patch of skin on the Red Hood was the thin sliver peeking between the turtle-neck and the crimson helmet, pale and beckoning like a knife's edge.
...andit made sense – it all made sense. Jason was a killer, and Tim should begrudge him each and every life he took. But Jason was fooling himself, if he thought that Tim hadn't been aware of it from the beginning. If he thought that Tim's hands were so clean of blood, his feelings so fickle. He...
Tim's arms slipped around Jason's waist, hands sliding along his back. He pressed his forehead to the bare skin of Jason's neck, feeling it burn, despite his own fever, burn and tremble, and curled against his chest, boneless and entirely defenceless in his grasp.
...he accepted Jason for who he was. Accepted the guilt, the anger, the pain. The blood, the demons of his past. He was willing to forgive them and give Jason a second chance, if Jason would allow it. Maybe it was awful, but-he wouldn't – couldn't – stop loving Jason because his personal body count had increased of one.
I choose you. Tim was telling him, as blatant and wordless as Jason had been. I know who you are, I know what you are, and it doesn't scare me. So, stop running. Stop hiding. And just... have me?
He moulded his body to Jason's own, chests moving together with each breath, heart beating a quick staccato of adrenaline and worry and pain. He clung to him, tired and wordless but not beaten, and it wasn't exactly "I love you" or even "I care for you", except that it was.
I love you, Jay. I really do.
For several long moments, they held their breath. Then Jason pulled his arm back, a deliberate motion that brought the gun to his face, before a quick flick of his wrist sent it back in its holster.
Tim felt him shift, hands hovering, but he didn't dare hope until Jason's hand was in his hair, shiver-gentle, carding through the sweaty locks at the base of his nape. Tim's knees buckled, he couldn't help it. His knees buckled and the world swayed, and when Jason bent to hoist him up in his arms, Tim burrowed into him, he couldn't help that, either.
He tucked his face in the slope of Jason's shoulder, breathing him deep – leather and gunpowder and sweat, the musk of aftershave and the tang of smoke, and beneath it all, the memory of blood – and decided he'd have plenty of time later on to loathe himself for his weakness, for his desires, for loving someone and not caring how dirty his hands were, not if it meant giving him a second chance, not if meant being together.
He smothered a half-sob against Jason's chest, and let himself be carried, looking as at home in Red Hood's arms, as if snuggling with his arch-nemesis was something he allowed on a regular basis.
With his eyes closed, he felt the light shift around them. The acrid smell of smoke gave way to salty ocean breeze. The low mumbling of the scared thugs was cut off by the metal clang of a door closing, and then: sirens, wailing in the distance, gaining volume as they came closer.
Jason shifted Tim's weight in his arms, easily slipped the grapple gun from the utility belt, and off they went, sailing through the air and landing flawlessly atop a nearby building.
Tim clung instinctively tighter when Jason lowered him gently on the ground. Wordlessly, Jason reached up around his own neck, grasped onto Tim's hands and tugged until Tim was forced to let go. Reluctantly he pulled away.
Jason's red helmet glinted oddly in the starlight, and Tim felt wounded deeper by that blank stare than he ought to be. He curled his fist around Jason's jacket and tugged once, invitingly.
"...let's go home, Jay."
Jason hesitated a moment, then pushed himself away, shaking his head.
"You were supposed to get angry, Tim. To lash out. To shout. To... to... fuck if I know." He sounded as tired as Tim felt. "Arrest me. Cut my throat with another fuckin' batarang. Something. Not to..." his voice gained volume. It was angry, now. "Fuck it, Tim, you're supposed to hate me! Not let me do this to you! Can't you see I'm-"
Tim tried to grab at him and pull him back, but Jason lurched angrily to his feet, turned his back on him. The red helmet was still moving left and right, a child's angry negation. The leather of his gloves creaked as he pumped his fists.
"We split ways here. Don't..."
"Don't ever show your face again."
Tim's throat felt tight.
"If you do, I'll kill you. I..." Fingers flexing. Chest heaving. "Get it into your head that I don't want you." The creaking of leather. The shudder of a long breath. A hunch in those tense, straight shoulders. A quiver. "It's over."
He jumped off the roof then, vanishing through the darkness as if swallowed by it, but Tim never saw any of it. He was curled onto himself, rocking and heaving shuddering breaths, shivering and staring at his knees until his eyes went blurry.
He was still rocking, when Nightwing found him. Heaving, as the drugs were purged from his systems. Shivering as he was forced upstairs and into bed, where sleep failed to claim him for hours on end.
His eyes and chest, though, they never stopped burning.
...I know you want to club me in the head right about now, but—I'll make it better? I think? *hopeful note in her voice*This was supposed to end on an angsty note, but NOT this angsty... *baffled at own writing*
On a side note, it should be only another couple of chapters (or rather one, and one split in two halves), before this story ends. I'm tempted by notion of a sequel, but I'm not quite sure, yet.