Disclaimers: None of this is mine.
Spoilers: References to old Batman and Titans issues.
Timeline: Not *especially* long after "A Death in the
Summary: Jason never looked right in the suit.
Ratings Note/Warnings: R. Contains content some
readers may find disturbing.
Author's Note: Completely Houie's fault. I've now
listened to "Oceans Breathe Salty" approximately
six hundred times.
Acknowledgments: To Jack, Mary, and Livia for
audiencing, hand-holding, thighs, and helpful
He'd never looked right in the suit.
Part of it is the fact that Dick isn't sure if anyone (ever)
could, because Robin is --
No. No, no --
Once, Kory had told him about her people. About the
Gordanians, and the wars they'd had amongst
themselves before -- the only word for it is
She'd said 'when you love, you give yourself. Otherwise
it isn't love at all. You give of yourself to this one, and
to that one, and then, when they die, a part of you
will always be missing. Until you take it *back* from
the one who'd stolen your love.'
He'd tried to explain to her that it didn't work that way.
That he'd gotten nothing back from Zucco of his
parents, and that he never would. That he'd already
*had* everything of them he ever could, and that he'd
He loves Kory, even when her eyes are greenly opaque
and (alien) strange.
There are pieces of him missing now.
"Okay, *fine*. You don't want to spar, you don't
want to patrol with me. So let's just sit here and
fucking *glare* --"
"Watch your language, kid, or --"
"You'll wash out my mouth? Please."
The angel is only wrong until you look closely. Until you
shift, a little to the side, and see the hardness of its
mouth. Or... maybe it's not 'hardness.'
It's *stone*, after all, and it's not like... it's not.
There's a set to the angel's mouth that has nothing to
do with sadness, or calm, or resignation.
It's something that keeps making him stare at its -- her?
his? -- feet. Looking for the movement. For the --
"I *get* it. Jesus, Nightwing. You'd think I didn't
used to *do* Three-Card Monte on the corners."
"No, I just wouldn't have thought you'd be any *good*
at it, kid."
Jason's eyes are wide, obvious behind the mask, and his
mouth hangs open. He looks -- he looks like Dick had
Only a slap probably would've -- "Hell. Jason --"
The blown-out breath sends garlic and cumin at Dick's
face, and then Jason stumbles and laughs and -- "Aw,
For the tell. There's no tell, not really. It's just a statue,
on a grave.
There's nothing to smell but dirt and grass and -- God,
roses. Red roses for Bruce's parents, red roses for his --
for Jason Todd.
When Dick was young, the manor was often filled with
roses. It smelled like the expensive version of Ample
Annie's trailer. When he'd explained that to Alfred --
carefully, very carefully -- Alfred had done a lot of
And cleared his throat.
He remembers being young enough not to realize that
was the equivalent of Alfred laughing so hard he was
crying, and he remembers trying to --
"Aw, man, no, no, I didn't mean it like --"
"How *did* you mean it?" No one, no one gives him
*headaches* like this... this fucking *kid*.
Hands in the air and not backing off -- not really. Just...
he looks like he wants to.
He shouldn't find it so satisfying. "Well?"
"Look, I'm just saying -- maybe Bruce freaked, you
know? I *know* you know, you lived with him for six
It was supposed to be forever.
"... and, anyway, who knows? I'm gonna need some
place to shack up whenever *I* get shot and, gee,
look, this freaking circus suit doesn't have enough
He doesn't have to look at Jason.
"Aw... *fuck*. I didn't --"
He remembers trying to backtrack, and Alfred clearing
his throat again, and steering them away from what
he'll always think of as the 'breakfast room,' because
Lower Dining Room just seems too... too.
Away from all the roses.
And Alfred had said something about the importance
of memory, and how, perhaps, roses were the first
*good* thing Bruce had remembered smelling after...
Which had made a lot of sense -- enough, at least,
that it had felt okay to leave Alfred to his duties -- Dick
had *never* been able to think of them as 'chores' --
and go back to thinking on his own.
It hadn't made *enough* sense. Because while good
smells (sawdust, cotton candy, teddy after mommy
washed him, by hand, with the soap she only used
on *herself* when they stopped somewhere with a
cheap motel and a bathtub) were important, there was
a *reason* he'd asked Bruce to stop wearing the
cologne he'd been wearing when he took Dick home.
And he had.
So... hadn't Bruce understood? A little?
He remembers when he hadn't ever asked questions like
that. When he hadn't had to.
"When did you get *that*?" The words are out
before he can stop, before he can *think*, and it's like
the world is frozen around them.
Colder than it ever could be on a Gotham September
night, and worse when Jason freezes, too.
With his hand over the strange (it isn't, you know it
isn't) bruise on his thigh. "Uh --"
"Never mind," he says. "Just..."
"You never looked right in the suit," he says, rolling the
words through his mouth just as if it's something he
*had* let himself think about saying aloud.
The angel doesn't fly, the roses put him in a trailer with
the woman who gave the third-best (Mommy, Daddy)
hugs in the universe, except when she was entertaining,
and then there were swats. There's only a little grass,
"You made it look *wrong*. Like it was something... I
*flew* in that suit, Jason. I -- I --"
"Okay, I'm asking for it, I *know* I am, but..."
Robin made a face whenever he smells alcohol.
Nightwing... Nightwing kind of likes Guinness.
Sometimes. "I'm mellow tonight, kid, go ahead and
Except that Jason doesn't. He tugs the cape a little to
make sitting in the curvy Tower chairs more
comfortable, and then he just... looks.
"Or *I* could ask," he says, and smiling feels so good
on his face (too long, too --) that he does it a little
"Well, I was *gonna* ask about the boots --"
"*Showmanship*, kiddo --"
"But now I just want to know what's got you feeling
No one had ever asked him that question before. No
one had ever had to, really.
"Fuck. Yeah. I'm just going to stop pushing my luck,
"Except. Except for the mask. You got that right,
sometimes. When you had the lenses up and you backed
off a step or two, you might as well have been *Bruce*."
It's windy enough that the clouds pass over the sun and
back again what feels like every few seconds. It's longer
than that. His time-sense has been messed-up for days.
"She didn't take everything, you know. She said she
couldn't, but I know her, I think. She knew I wouldn't
*want* her to."
"No, I'm *not* a fucking bigot, Nightwing --"
"You *sound* like one --"
"There are aliens, and there are metahumans, and then
"She didn't *ask* for her powers, kid, and I think you
need to step *back* and think about what --"
"*I* didn't ask her to... to... what the hell did she *do*
to me, Dick? I can't -- I can't feel --"
Oh. Fuck. "It's temporary. I swear. It's just -- she
didn't -- do you know what you were thinking about?"
"Yes, I fucking know what I was *thinking* about, you
sonofabitch, and so do *you*."
"See," he says, and crouches, brushing Bruce's roses
aside. "See, it's like this. What I couldn't figure out
how to say before. What I was... anyway. She knew
you were messed-up about... about that night, and she
knew you didn't ever want us to be... to be..."
The sound of his own voice is choked, breathless. Not
yet. Not... just not yet.
"*I* didn't understand it. How much you wanted us to
be *okay*. I didn't want to, because then I would've
had to deal with how much I *didn't* want that, and
also maybe think about..."
It's so -- so *fucking* quiet out here. Rich people
graveyards, without even traffic noise to remind you
that everyone in the world isn't dead, save for you.
Jason would've hated it. Jason --
"God, why can't I get you *out* of here, kid? Why can't
I just -- I *know* I could make this better. That you --
I could -- you liked the circus, when I took you. Even if
you liked the parts I kept trying to hide best --"
"Holy *shit*, you were all a bunch of *crooks*!"
"I... not *all* of us."
Jason smiles so broadly his face scrunches up like a
child's. It's shocking enough that the punch might as
well come from nowhere, and Dick has to work not
to use any of his more obvious moves in reflex.
"*Watch* it --"
"Admit it. You totally fleeced the marks whenever you
"I... the word is 'rubes,' kid."
"Oh, dude, I think I love you."
"I'm losing the thread. Again. I..." Dick laughs to himself,
and moves to kneel. His suit pants are going to be
ruined, but he hates this suit.
He hates *suits*, because even the *best* ones make
him feel like he's being wrapped up tight in something
conservative and bland and meaningless.
Kneeling like this feels better, for a lot of reasons.
"Okay, I'm just going to say it, and I'm not going to
try to be *coherent*, because it's not like you couldn't
mess me up when you were here, right?
"This is better."
Dick pulls some of the thorns off Bruce's roses, but he
doesn't toss them *away* from the grave.
"You probably loved 'em. Did you like the smell? Did
you know why Bruce did?"
If he stays here long enough, the grass will grow in
a gentle, perfectly maintained curve over the grave
everywhere he isn't. He digs in a little more with his
"I didn't say anything to you, or to Raven, because
then I'd have to think about it. It wasn't just a huge
mistake -- I'm a *cheap* drunk, Jason -- but. You
thought it would make things okay. With us."
"Like -- like this?"
"Yeah, kiddo, yeah just -- ah, fuck, your hands --"
"Heh. You didn't come around when I was still
blistering and bleeding --"
"Should've -- taken it easy on the weights --"
"Aw, shut up, dude, the weights are where I
Even in the dark, maybe especially in the dark, Dick
can trace all the scars on Jason's knuckles. All the
cuts and slashes that even the gauntlets won't
protect you from.
If you're a brawler.
"Yeah, show me..."
"And, see, it kills me, kiddo. How could you *ever*
think *that* would make it okay? With *me*?"
The angel isn't looking at him.
"How could you think anything *would*? How --
how could you be so fucking *stupid*?"
All the questions, all of them. Where did Bruce *get*
this kid? How could he ever think -- why is he in
my *clothes*? Why wasn't I *good* enough?
Why did you --
"Jason, Jason, just please tell me you aren't *here*.
That this isn't -- this whole thing is so -- "
"Look, just tell me what the fuck that *was*."
His shoulders are as broad as Dick's will ever be. His
eyes are blue and impossibly wide. He smells like
the cologne Bruce started wearing after he'd stopped
"Yeah, I thought so." The laugh is sharp and mean
and real. "Remind me to keep you away from the
demon liquor, man. You can't *handle* it."
"You never call me Robin, unless you have to. Ever
think about why?"
You stupid, ignorant little *prick*. How -- "Shouldn't
you be in Gotham, right now?"
Jason spreads his hands. "Maybe somewhere,
Dick has dirt beneath his fingernails, but his calluses
are a little too hard for the thorns to make him bleed.
"She took it away so we could try again, Robin."
The scratches are white on his skin, save where
they're smudged with dirt.
"She let me keep it, because she knew how upset you
were when you figured out what she'd done. And she
knew you were dead, and that this -- this --"
Time -- real time -- hits like a padded brick. It's
getting dark, and it's windier than it was before. It's
worse, because the cold and dark feel like it should
actually mean something, this time.
"Yeah, even after *years* in Gotham, kid. Robin."
It doesn't mean anything at all, of course, save that
he's feeling everything the way he should, again. All
"I think she's sorry, for what it's worth. I."
"You didn't have to do this, Dick."
The cocoa isn't as good as Alfred's, and the snow is
from a machine. "Nope, I didn't."
"I mean -- you -- look, it doesn't *matter* that Bruce
wants us to be brothers. We both know it doesn't
work like that."
Dick takes another sip and watches the glare of the
sun on the snow until his eyes start to sting.
"Just drink the fucking cocoa." He can feel that
eye-roll from over here.
"You think he's right. You think if you keep trying --"
"I don't think *anything*, Jason."
Jason blows on his cocoa -- loudly. It's pretty much a
And then it's an actual laugh, loud and careless and --
Dick can feel the eyes of the other skiers on them.
"What is it?"
"You don't think because it hurts. *I* don't think
because there's no point. I'm just..." The laughter
fades, and Jason leans back against the couch beside
him, slugging back half his cocoa like a shot. "It's just
funny, is all."
"If you say so."
His collar is wet, and cold, and uncomfortable. It's
better when he opens it, even though it's also colder.
He could unbutton this shirt nearly to the waist and
his Nightwing suit wouldn't show. Maybe he should --
"Look, it's not like you *don't* have a sweet rack,
Dick. Because you *do*."
"It was just a bruise, you know. I was -- I was on
the beam. Trying to. There's a reason why I don't do
any acrobatics, man. I couldn't jerk off for a week."
"The others --"
"We're not *talking* about the others. Fuck, God, can
we at least agree that if there's *anything* we
shouldn't talk about, it's *Bruce*?"
Dick sighs, and stands, and doesn't even try to brush
off his knees. "No, kiddo. We really, really can't."
"Are you some kind of *masochist*?"
He punches the angel, and lets the jar vibrate all the
way up his arm, and grits his teeth.
"What do you *want* from me?"
"I never wanted anything, Robin. Not from you."
"Fucking *obviously* --"
"I just. I just think we maybe could've done this
better. At the very least, I would've made you a better
"Your taste *scares* me."
Because he'd never looked right. In the suit.
He finds his bike right where he'd left it, and uses the
jacket to scrub off a gift from a pigeon that would
probably die of mortification if it ever tried to take a
crap over *that* graveyard.
Then he balls up the jacket and tosses it in a
Then he goes back to New York.