Roy moved quickly after Jason's unfortunately telling outburst. He got behind Jason and physically hauled him away from the Bat. Jason tried to kick out and escape, but it was no use, as his frantic mind did not allow him to make calculated attempts. He soon found himself surrounded by his brothers and the Outlaws.
Jason's every breath was still an audible storm of wheezing and crying. Their huddle was so tight that they were shaking in unison. While Batman was shocked into stillness, back against the wall, the Outlaws and the former Robins were stroking Jason's hair, holding his hand, doing anything they could in a desperate attempt to calm him down.
"Tell me what you want, Jay," Dick said quietly by Jason's ear. Tim could just make out Dick's face if he looked up, and it was scrunched as if he were about to cry. His voice sounded the same. "Anything you want, just tell me."
Jason's voice, however, sounded wrecked, as if it had to be physically pushed out of his body. "I don't know, I don't know," he said, ripping his hand out of Starfire's tentative grasp and clawing at his scalp. "I want - " he stopped, closing his eyes tightly.
"What?" Dick asked frantically. "What do you want, Little Wing? I'll get it for you. I'm gonna try so hard to get you everything you want, I promise." Tim could hear a sniff from Damian, who was pushed into his side.
Jason turned completely around, more in control of himself than he had been previously, to look at Dick. "I want my mom," he whispered.
"But didn't-" Damian started, but Tim shushed him.
"He's talking about Catherine, not Sheila," Tim said, and Jason burst into tears.
In the years that Dick had known him, Jason had never said those words. Dick had never even seen the specific sort of sadness that comes with missing a parent in Jason. He had always thought of himself and of Bruce in terms of "orphan", but the second Robin? Jason had always been "street kid" in Dick's head, had been "alley rat" in the worst of times and "homeless youth" in the best of them. It had never been the same to him, but that was because Jason was better at hiding sadness. He always had been. It was why the image before Dick now was so horrifying. Anger from the famed and feared Red Hood was nothing to him by now, but tears were a completely different ballgame. Jason didn't cry. Jason didn't falter in his movements. Jason didn't miss his mother.
Only, he did miss his mom. Just like he had undoubtedly missed Bruce, and Alfred, and maybe even Dick himself.
Dick put his hands on either side of Jason's tearful face, and the others backed away, sensing something was coming. He took a deep breath.
"Jason," he said, "look at me."
Jason looked at him.
"Everything you brought with you when Bruce took you in is still in the house. I know you had pictures of her in that old backpack of yours. It's all intact, I promise. And-" he sighed, his voice beginning to waver once again, "and she's buried in Gotham, isn't she? We could go there, right now. It's not perfect, I know, but it's better than this, isn't it? Catherine wouldn't want you to be so upset."
Jason gripped the front of Dick's clothing. "She'd hate me," he implored, his eyes going wide. "I promised I would take care of her forever. I promised her I would live. We had nothing, we were poor and starving and almost homeless and I promised her I would live anyway. And then I tried to replace her! I died trying to find a new mom!"
"She wouldn't blame you for wanting family, Jay. You know that," Dick said soothingly. "She loved you so much. You came back to life and you're a hero. She'd be so proud."
"I haven't seen her headstone since I was fourteen," he argued back. "When I was in Gotham I couldn't go because the the place had cameras and I knew Bruce would see me. And then I left Gotham, Dick. And now every time I come back because one of you guys is in trouble, I can't bring myself to see her."
"We'll see her together, you and me." Dick pulled Jason in close. "We can go visit my parents, too, okay? They would have loved you almost as much as I know Catherine loved you. You wanna know why?"
Jason took a few deep breaths, the tears beginning to slow. "Why?"
"Because you're built like a tank and you can still fly like an acrobat." Dick smiled when he felt Jason laugh just a little into his shoulder. "I'm serious! My father could never figure out how to not have a dainty lady waist."
"So, he looked like you, is what you're saying," Roy quipped, trying to add to the lightening mood.
"That is actually exactly what I'm saying," Dick laughed. He pulled back to take a look at Jason's tear-streaked face. "Listen, Little Wing. You and I have had a lot of ups and downs. We haven't always been on the same side, but if you're willing to forgive me, I've always been willing to forgive you. And I think the same goes for everyone." Dick gestured to Bruce, who was standing closer than he had been but had still not entered the group.
Jason looked at Bruce a long time. He remembered every bullet, kick, and punch that had landed in Batman's direction. He remembered the bomb he had placed under the Batmobile, the detonator he had held onto so tightly. He remembered the newspaper clipping that told him the Joker was still alive and roaming Gotham. He remembered the batarang that sliced his neck when he tried to rid the world of that same criminal. He remembered being called a mistake, a regret. He remembered learning about the family portrait that happened without him.
"I forgive you," Jason said to Bruce as he looked over Dick's shoulder. "You won't until I stop killing people, and I won't stop doing that, but I forgive you. It was never even a question for me, like I told you before."
"You're my son," Bruce said. His throat was dry and painful. "You're my son and I will always love you."
Jason looked down at his feet with a bittersweet smile. When he looked up again, his eyes were finally completely clear of any influence from the Lazarus Pit, and completely clear of any tears. "That's not the same thing though, is it, Bruce."
It wasn't a question. Bruce didn't answer it, either way.
Jason took a step back from Dick. He cracked his neck to the left, then to the right. He rolled his shoulders a few times and adjusted the jacket he was wearing. Then, he turned to Tim. "Do you think you could pass for 21?"
Tim looked back at his older brother quizzically. "I have a fake ID, why?"
"Because you, me, Dick, Roy, and Kori are heading to a bar." Jason looked down at Damian and added, "Sorry, kid, but you definitely can't pass for 21, even if you'd be a hell of an addition to a bar fight."
Confused and somewhat nervous about the abrupt turnaround to Jason's mood, Damian just nodded and said it was alright.
Dick was also confused, but he rolled with it as his other siblings had. "Roy doesn't drink."
Roy was absolutely not confused. Instead, he took the shift in stride, and slung his arm around Jason. "I flirt with the bartenders and pretend I'm the responsible one!"
Kori smiled serenely. "We can all take my ship back."
"It's totally my ship," Roy pouted.
Kori's smile widened into a haughty grin. "Roy, I'm an actual commander of a spaceship."
"Damn it, you always win with that line."
"Okay, okay, we get it. You're both very qualified. Let's go. Bruce can take the plane you guys came in here on. Unless he wants to join us, of course."
They all looked over to Bruce. Bruce, in turn, calculated all of their faces. Arsenal and Starfire looked apprehensive, while Tim had a look of horror on his face that he knew was more about himself drinking in front of the Batman than about the invitation. Dick looked as if he were praying for Bruce to say yes and Jason looked as nonchalant as he could muster, which made him unreadable. He always had been the biggest mystery to Bruce.
Batman pulled his cowl down and smiled. "I'll let you all catch up with each other, but I'll leave the light on in the manor. I hope you all make it back to stay the night, but please let Roy drive the ship after your outing. I don't think Alfred wants to wake up to the roof collapsing on top of him."
When they all walked out together, Jason brushed shoulders with Bruce in a silent thank you. Bruce wrapped his arm around his son and walked with him that way until they parted ways at Starfire's ship.
It wasn't perfect. It would never be perfect. Sooner or later, Jason would once again think that any affection thrown his way was in an attempt to get him to stop killing. Sooner or later, Bruce would forget to say that he loved Jason, would forget to convey that the reason Jason shouldn't kill is because he doesn't deserve the darkness that comes with it, not because those criminals don't deserve death. Sooner or later, they would fight, probably physically but certainly emotionally. Sooner or later, Jason would leave Gotham with those he had come with and without any words of support. Sooner or later, one of them would slip up, would revert to what they knew best: inflicting pain. It was inevitable. This facade that Jason had put on was just a facade, and it would crack, sooner or later.
Bruce looked up at the retreating ship and waved at it as it left. He would make it later. He had failed all his sons for far too long, and now was the time to succeed.
A/N: Okay, so it's over! I can't believe there are actually people still reading this, but if you are, in fact, the person that's still reading this, then I LOVE YOU! Also, I'm sorry about the terrible delays. I'm a horrible human being =(
As always, review if you want. You can also PM me if you want, considering I'm always awake and on my computer. Thank you so so so much for reading!