Disclaimer: Batman: Under The Red Hood © DC / Warner Bros. - Full disclaimer on my profile. I'm of the opinion that all the rights to Jason Todd should belong to Judd Winick, but eh, I guess you can't have everything.
Summary: Robin is never scared. Robin is brave, and Robin soldiers on to the last. Oneshot; spoilers for the beginning of "B:UTRH".
A/N: That I wrote this is making me worry about my emotionally-sado-masochistic tendencies. /curls into a sobbing ball
I just really love Jason Todd. IDK, I think that morally grey characters in fiction are really great (when handled well, of course). I've already written Jason in the 'verses of Young Justice and Teen Titans, and I expect that this won't be the last time I write him.
I tried my best not to just recite what happened in the beginning of the film - I tried to...analyse how I think Jason thought, I guess. What drove him, his feelings about his family, how it contributed to him becoming the Red Hood, etc. I can't say how well I accomplished that, though. I'll leave that up to you guys.
So you've probably noticed that I seem to pick a song as a theme for most of my oneshots by now. For this one, it's "Angels On The Moon" by Thriving Ivory, which is truly beautiful and tragic.
Constructive criticism very welcome!
The apartment was dark when the young boy returned, and not even flicking the light switch back and forth could summon light, so evidently they'd had their power cut off again; Jason tripped over the tear in the threadbare carpet and narrowly missed a shard of broken plate as he fumbled in the dark for the cigarette lighter on the table.
Catherine was quiet. Jason's brow furrowed, hand bumping against something small and smooth on the tabletop.
"Mom?" he said again, voice echoing disconcertingly in the quiet, the only other noise being his gentle breathing, the faraway cries of Gotham city police sirens and the rasp of metal as he attempted to use the lighter to pull a small flame into existence. He cussed as the sparks dissipated into nothing, words that no seven-year-old should have known. "Mom, I did some running for some - well, it doesn't matter what he does, the point is I got us some money -"
His foot hit something - it rolled away, something rattling within it. His breath snagged in his throat.
The lighter came to life, and he lowered it to the ground. A bottle of pills - much, much emptier than it had been that morning - and next to them, a hand, dangling limp and pale from the prone body on the sofa.
His voice exploded from him, tearing through the blanket of quiet, raw and throaty - ohgodohgod - shutting the lighter to extinguish the flame and abandoning it on the floor, his hands snatched at Catherine's arm and shook it violently. "Mom! Mom, wake up!" She took too much no she can't have shecan'thave -
Her head rolled. Her mouth moved. Her eyelids fluttered.
Jason collapsed to his knees, heaving a deep sigh of relief. His hands trembled, but all she did was give him a small, faint smile through the darkness.
"Y-yeah, I am." Jason managed a small, forced chuckle. "Guess what? I got us some money..."
But Catherine didn't seem to hear him, drifting back to cloud nine. Jason swallowed the lump in his throat, clutching her hand for a moment.
"Don't give up, Mom," he whispered.
Don't give up.
Don't give up.
Don't give up.
Don't give up, Jason.
"What's the matter, birdie-boy? Getting tired? But I'm not finished yet!"
- give -
The crowbar cracked his lower rib.
Backhand. Forehand. Backhand. Forehand.
And on it went.
"Okay, kiddo, I gotta go - it's been fun, though, right?"
The words were muffled to Jason's ears, barely decipherable, as if his head were being held underwater - and given how the world swam in and out of focus before his eyes and each lungful of breath weighed much more than it should have, it may as well have been.
Joker was quiet for a second, as if awaiting confirmation. Jason kept his eyes tightly shut - maybe, if the Joker was considering finishing his work, maybe if he stayed still the Joker would think he wasn't worth any more attention - a toy too broken to play with any more.
Jason tried desperately to remember that he was just pretending to be broken as pain flared through his chest.
He tried desperately to pretend he was pretending.
Robin never breaks.
"Well, maybe maybe a smidge more fun for me than you. I'm just guessing, seeing as you're being awfully quiet." A rustle of clothing. Jason thought. It was becoming increasingly difficult to pay attention. "Aaanyway, be a good boy, finish your homework and be in bed by nine. And hey!"
Jason's breath shuddered in the cold air as the Joker took another moment to silently gloat.
"Please tell the big man I said hello."
His demonic cackling pierced Jason's eardrums. Metal scraped as the door shut.
Only then did Jason dare to crack his eye open.
His vision was dulling at the edges, the feeling fading from his fingertips - the world was becoming distant, too distant; the only sensations that cut through the descending fog were the sting of his cuts and the ache of his limbs and he was terrified, so so terrified but Robin is never scared, Robin is brave and Robin soldiers on to the last.
So Robin soldiered on.
Bracing himself, Robin grunted as he twisted himself onto his back - the floor pressed painfully into his shoulder blades - pushed his legs into the air and rolled - the momentary weight on his head jarring his spine - on his knees now, he manoeuvred his handcuffed wrists beneath and in front of him - his dislocated shoulder made it relatively easy.
He lifted himself onto his feet, shoulders hunched, his arms dead weights in front of him - almost collapsing, but forcing himself to take that one, crucial step forward.
An arrow of blinding pain shot up from his heel and through his body. His knees buckled. His nose cracked against the tiles. Jason blacked out for a split second, mind spiralling back to happier places -
"Check me out! I'm Robin, the Boy Wonder!"
When he came abruptly back to his body, Jason Todd bit back an animalistic moan of pain.
And Robin soldiered on.
He lifted his impossibly heavy head and fixed teal green eyes on the door. The warehouse stretched dauntingly before him.
Robin would make it. And if he had to worm his way to safety on his stomach, so be it.
He gritted his teeth as he dragged himself by his arms - he could feel the fabric and skin tear at his elbows. The world lurched sickeningly. His mind flickered, hazy one moment and painfully alert the next, which can't have been a good sign - but his body continued regardless, on autopilot.
He wanted to give up.
He wanted to collapse and surrender himself to unconsciousness.
"Your fighting style is improving, Jason. Not at Dick's level yet, but..."
"Come on, Jason, Dick could do that backflip in his sleep."
"Keep it up, Robin, and you might someday be as good as the original."
His brother would make it. Dick would cartwheel over to the door and come out the other side with a witty quip and cheeky grin, not a black hair out of place, if he would even let himself get caught in the Joker's trap in the first place.
Not good enough, Jason.
He'd make it to the other side. He had to. Robin would.
Blood smeared against the tiles behind him as the seconds stretched into minutes and the minutes stretched into hours and finally, after an eternity, finally he was at the door.
A rush of triumph momentarily overwhelmed the ache in his bones.
I'm going to make it.
He fought to push himself onto his knees, lifting his hands to the handle. Flakes of rust fell away from it.
Freedom. He could practically feel the stinging, Bosnian wind on his cheek. Only an inch of metal between himself and safety.
If I don't bleed to death in the snow.
Bruce will find me before then. I just have to keep going.
The handle didn't work.
It didn't open.
The door was locked.
Jason's hand fell away. Damn. So much for that plan.
His back hurt. He twisted his body to lean against the door - winced, groaned. His hand clutched his side reflexively. Absently, he noted the trail of claret red he'd left behind him. Had it really been that short a distance?
Panic fluttered against his ribs; he was trapped. Trapped, bleeding. Dying.
It's okay. It's okay. Bruce will find me. Alfred will patch me up. Then Batman and I will find the Joker together. We'll stop him.
Surely, this would be the last straw. The Bat's son in all but name and blood, beaten half to death? Batman - no, Bruce, he wouldn't let it slide. The thought almost gave Jason the strength to smile - they'd finally put that psychopath away for good.
It hurt. But he'd get through it.
Don't give up, Jason.
A steady beeping, like a heart monitor.
He turned his head in search of the strange noise - so out of place in the derelict warehouse. An unsettling thought struck him: was he really there?
His head was spinning. Heart monitor. What if he was dreaming, already in the safety of a medical bay, or -
The scene in front of his eyes focused, and when he discerned the source of the noise, the hope was dashed from his mind. Numbers flashed at him.
Not a heart monitor. A bomb.
Suddenly, his heart seemed to skip; his blood ran icy in his veins. His one unswollen eye widened.
The panic burnt out as swiftly as it had flared up as cold acceptance settled within him. No point in panic. No point in tears, if he had the strength to cry. No point in despair.
I am going to die.
The Joker always liked to have the last laugh.
But the Joker wouldn't get it.
Bruce...get the dirtbag for me. Right between the eyes.
It wasn't how he'd ever expected to die.
As a child on the streets of Gotham, death was no unfamiliar concept. He was under no illusion that he'd live a lengthy, prosperous and joyful life - illusions would have gotten him killed. He'd expected to be dead before twenty, perhaps from hunger or some insane street thug or maybe from cigarette-induced lung cancer.
But as Robin, he'd expected to go out in a blaze of glory - perhaps giving his life to save others. Perhaps dealing a killing blow to some cosmic threat that happened to sneak a killing blow back. Certainly not bound and tied up on the floor of some old warehouse, far from home.
Well, at least he'd be going down in a blaze.
I'm still dying a hero.
If he could have, he would have smiled. He wasn't just another homeless statistic. He was a hero. He mattered. He mattered to Bruce, who was surely on his way - he wouldn't make it in time, of course, but that wouldn't stop him trying. He mattered to Dick, who'd given him his blessing as the original Robin, who'd offered him friendship and support when his relationship with Bruce was at it's most strained. He mattered to Alfred, the quiet, calming presence at the back of the room that anchored Batman and the Robins to reality. He mattered to the lives he'd saved. How fitting, then, that he'd die in his costume with the 'R' symbol on his bloody chest.
His lung was collapsed. His words were barely a whisper.
Jason closed his eyes.