Ummm… right…. So, this update is exceedingly late and I'm terrible with deadlines… ^^" Yeah so… please don't kill me!
This one is a little longer than the updates I have been posting. Hopefully it is up to standards… Read and review please!
The heavy weight in his arms shifted, drawing closer to him and the cape he had provided. They had not spoken in over and hour (his circadian rhythm had been thrown off, he couldn't be sure…) and Jason had developed some sort of fast-acting fever that quickly enveloped his teenaged body. Again, the father inside him planted the seed of worry that just never seemed to stop growing. Thankfully, the simple phrase Bruce had uttered earlier had sent his son off to sleep, restless as it was.
But now Jason was stirring again to wakefulness. His eyes opened slowly on the world, like a newborn's tremulous first breath. Jason's teal eyes held a tremor of fear, an abundance of uncertainty, and more than enough delirium to mask the two for any untrained eye.
But Bruce saw it.
Jason took a moment to recognize his surroundings, yet the disorientation remained when he opened his mouth to speak some strange non sequiter , "I remember my dad."
"I'm here Jason, go back to sleep," He replied tiredly.
"No… my biological dad," He said, just as exhaustedly. "I… I feel the next one coming on. Probably won't make it…." His voice just got weaker as he mumbled on, trailing off as he spoke. Bruce started at the boy's words nonetheless, his heart twisting in terror; a terror beyond words even for the eloquent billionaire.
"You'll be fine. I'm here." Led by instinct, Bruce rested his palm on the boys hair. He ran his fingers through the grim-encrusted locks easily and in a soothing gesture.
"I remember this one time… The Old Man came home, drunk out of his fuckin' mind…" Jason paused. He drew a breath into his lungs and closed his eyes, unwilling to waste energy on their operation. "Beat the shit outta me. Didn't stop till my arm was broken and I was all bloody on the floor." Jason laughed humorlessly, still with his eyes closed.
Bruce pulled his son close, holding him like his life depended on it. Maybe it did, judging by the swelling somewhere deep in his chest. "No more, Jason. You don't need to think about that right now, save your strength," He whispered.
Jason continued despite his words. "My Mom used to hold me like you do." He laughed again, "I should have learned early on that blood doesn't make family. Catherine Todd was my real Mom. And you… you were always my Dad… Just too damned pig-headed to say it…"
The boy's face suddenly contorted with pain, taking a fistful of the cape in a white-knuckle grip. Before his eyes, the boy began to change. Bones snapped in and out of place; skin grew tight, then loose. And Jason screamed in agony of it. The sight left Bruce absolutely horrified and clinging to the child he had raised, trying in vain to will the pain out of his son's whittled frame.
Bruce didn't think he had ever really heard the sound erupting from Jason's lungs before, but he suspected that the boy had gone through this transition more than once. Alone.
In all honesty it made him wish he had beaten Ra's into oblivion.
Before him the boy began to convulse and grow; muscles wrapped his form and his body became that of a man's. Jason was once again becoming Jason Todd. His youthful appearance wrapped itself into the history of pain and inner turmoil, the harsh set of his features regaining their hold. The young man let out one final cry, twisting and popping one last bone into proper joint, and Jason was done growing.
And he was out cold in Bruce's trembling arms.
It came to be that Bruce Wayne, billionaire playboy philanthropist, was holding the very still, very cold body of Jason Todd. After the transformation left his body sapped of energy and willpower, Jason had gone limp; now it was Bruce's duty to keep his son warm when his body could not.
At least he is breathing…
His mind whispered, keeping him on his toes and making him want to knock on wood.
He'll be all right. He's my son, he'll be fine.
Just as the words had processed, the young man began to stir; barely at first, but with more force as his eyes lit up with awareness. He struggled for a moment, not seeming to understand his circumstance.
"I'm here, I've got you." Bruce said aloud, tightening his grip.
Jason stared at his father for a few moments without recognition. His eyes were clouded with some other thought, something Bruce just couldn't quite see. He wondered if this was how it would have been if Bruce had been the one to find Jason after his reawakening…
"what day is it?"
"the twenty-forth. How do you feel?"
"like a shit-ton of bricks just rammed into my body right before I was blown through a blizzard. Other than that, I'm fine." He said, trying in vain to sit up.
"stay still, you're in no condition to be moving around."
"why are you here, Bruce?" He asked groggily. "why not just leave me with our old pal Ra's?"
"Do you want me to leave you here?" Bruce responded, looking into his son's eyes completely.
"Then that's why I didn't."
Jason closed his eyes, processing the information silently. Suddenly he smiled, opening his eyes with a glitter of mischief. "Nothing like a bit of family bonding, huh?"
Bruce smiled, but offered no response. The young man settled back and quieted down but Bruce could already tell that it was going to be a long night.
"Bruce?" He asked, shivering only slightly now, but still in the throes of sickness and recovery.
"Yes?" the man answered, though his tone told the young man that he had been keeping his father up for hours.
Jason continued anyways, "If I were just some kid that had stolen drugs on the street to get by, would you still have picked me up?"
The older man sighed exhaustedly. "that's not what happened."
"I know, but what would you have done?"
"I don't know, Jason. Try to get some sleep."
The younger man swallowed audibly and closed his bleary eyes. Silence fell upon them for a moment then, "How's Al doing?"
"He's fine, Jason."
"What about Babs?"
Jason shifted and opened his eyes, looking directly into the closed-off face of Bruce Wayne. Not Batman, but the father-figure for him. "You took me in, Bruce. After I was changed into a fuckin' kid." It was a statement, but the upwards inflection made it sound like a question.
"I did," he replied simply.
"But you could have just left me there."
"But you could have."
Bruce's eyes shot open and his face turned away from Jason to search the landscape without purpose. "I didn't leave you Jason. I haven't left you. I Won't leave you. So please, go to sleep and reserve your energy. I'll still be here when you wake up. I promise."
Jason closed his eyes tightly against some unknowable force before relaxing slightly. When he spoke it was quietly and with direct purpose. "Never make promises you can't keep, Dad."
Dick turned around in the snow. He looked this way and that but still saw nothing but endless boundaries of white. He scratched his head in bewilderment and looked again at the programed coordinates of his Father and Brother. The wind and the snow whipped all around him and he was glad of the added warmth of his upgraded costume – built for winter storms. What he wasn't appreciative of was the fact that his visibility was next to nothing.
He'd be the first to admit that he was completely confused.
"uh… Tim?" He said into the communicator.
"Yeah Dick? Did you find them? Is Jason all right?"
"uh… about that… I'm standing directly on the spot where these coordinates say they are… And they are not here."
There was silence on the other line. It was interrupted moments later when Dick made out the solitary sound of the clicking on a keyboard. "My scans say that the three of you are standing right next to each other… I don't understand…"
"Well, I'm standing here in the middle of a damned blizzard and they are not here." Dick said, pulling his winter outfit closer to him. Dick took one more glance at his surroundings only to pause when he heard an unmistakable sound: the moving of snow to make room for a foot. In this case, a paw.
Above the roar of wind Dick made out the hungry cry of a wolf. When one danced before his vision, he made out the features of the Tibetan wolf; the noticeably shorter legs, the broad head, the smaller stature, and the in-turned jaw. The wolf he saw carried a black, aggressive coat. The creature looked at him with hostility and, more prominently, hunger.
"Hey Tim? I'm gonna havta call you back, little bro. I've got a bit of a dog-eat-dog problem."