This time, for a little while
by Te
March 11, 2004

Disclaimers: Nothing here is mine.

Spoilers: None, really. Owes a lot to "The Delusions of
Alfred Pennyworth," from Gotham Knights #34.

Summary: Jason has always been a fighter.

Ratings Note: PG-13.

Author's Note: One day, I was trying to explain my
Jason issues to Jack:

Jason: Am I still dead?
Te: Yes, now go *away*.

Jason: Am I still dead?
Te: Mostly. Sorry about that.

Jason: Am I still dead?
Te: Not to me.

Acknowledgments: To dreamaperture for posting
the mini-comic. To Jack for audiencing.


The house isn't always quiet.

The house isn't always anything, but neither is Jason.
For a long time (or maybe a short time, it's hard to
tell), he'd tried to make sense of it. Who he is, what
he is, where he is.

He thinks it's part of being a teenager. He's always
going to be a teenager.


Sometimes he shoots a grapple off before he can
think about where it's going to go, and there's
always a moment when he wants to wince about
what Bruce will say -- or, more likely, what he *won't*
say -- but then it catches, catches on something far,
far beyond what he can see, and there's a voice...

No, it's a feeling.

He leaps, and swings, and the air holds him like a
cool, soft blanket until he remembers that it isn't
supposed to, and then the wind blows his hair back
and he whoops and flies and --


Alfred fixes him tea. He'd tried to say he didn't have
to do that, but *saying* things is one of those really
impossibly difficult things to do. He knows Alfred
doesn't expect him to drink it or anything, but... it's

It's that weird blend that was the only tea he ever
really liked. He was always more of a coffee person.
But this...

If he's careful, and he focuses, he can lean into it,
or make the steam lean into him, or something else
stupid and improbable.

He remembers how good it used to smell, and then
he can *remember* it, and Alfred makes a small
sound and Alfred reaches out and --


Bruce looks for him in the strangest places. Jason
isn't always sure how he knows that Bruce is looking
for him, but he does, and then he's *there*.

Almost there.

He crouches next to Bruce in the muck of an alley
that Jason spent a lot of time trying not to remember
when he was alive, and stares down at a tire print
that doesn't belong to the Batmobile.

I'm not here, he tries to say. I haven't been here for
a long time.

Bruce settles the cape more firmly around himself,
and leaves. Jason follows --


Sometimes there are other kinds of tea. Sweet and
bland, and it was the sort of thing that always used
to make Jason repeat to himself "focus on the
caffeine, that's the most important part."

And then he remembers that he isn't supposed to be
able to taste it at all, and he looks around and he


Old people. Or, not really old. Not even as old as
Bruce. More like old-time-y people, wearing clothes
that he'd only ever seen in movies. He looks down
at himself, and sees a boy wearing the kind of
clothes that would've pretty much guaranteed a
beat-down -- possibly from *him* -- and he realizes
that he isn't Jason at all.

The woman smiles at him gently, and the man looks
up from his newspaper with that distracted sort of
affection that always meant Daddy was *really*
thinking about one of his patients.

Bruce is a good boy, and eats his scones, and Jason
screams and screams --


"You're finished, Jason. All of your work is done,"
says the voice-that-isn't.

"I know," he says, and tries to figure out where he
is *now*.

"Nowhere. Nothing."

"But I can --"

"You don't have to, Jason."

"I don't *have* to do anything," he says and the
voice-that-isn't laughs, and Jason stares into the
nothing and *fights*. If he could just --


He isn't sure when it got to be winter again. He
doesn't like winter. He never did -- his legs got
*cold* -- and now it's even worse.

Every stiff breeze is more solid than he could ever
be, and he has to struggle to hold on, and not fall
into the snow.

Every flake is different. He never really used to
believe that, but they are, and if he could just --


There are colors in the snow. Red and yellow and
green, and he follows them as closely as he can
until they stop on a rooftop overlooking Central.

He checks, reflexively, but the signal isn't on.

And the colors are on a boy who isn't him at all.
Too small, too skinny, and he looks like he hasn't
smiled since... ever.

Who are you? he tries to ask.

"I don't know," the boy says, and Jason shudders
and jerks with shock. No one ever...

But the boy isn't looking at him.

What don't you know?

The boy laughs, quietly and humorlessly, and
swings down and away into the heart of the storm.

Jason follows, and scatters himself in a million,
million --


"Most people figure it out, by now," and the
voice-that-isn't seems just a bit sarcastic.

"I'm slow," Jason says, and pulls himself back into

"You're *stubborn*."

"That, too," Jason says, and there's a part of him
that won't come when it's called.

So he follows it.


He doesn't think fat women are supposed to look
like this. Or... well. Something.

Wonder Girl barely wears more clothes than Wonder
*Woman*, and considering the fact that she
outweighs Wonder Woman by at *least* eighty
pounds... well, that's wrong.

Or it should be.

"I *love* a boy in panties," she says, and hauls him
close by the panties in quest -- by his *shorts*,

"Uh, look --"

"Shh, baby. Cassie's gonna take care of

And she does.

The really impressive thing is that she never loses
her grip on the bottle.

"Um," he says, when she relaxes her grip enough
for Jason to roll away.


"Aren't we supposed to..." Fight crime. Or... he isn't
sure. There's something strange, something... it
doesn't feel *wrong*, really. Just different.

She looks at him curiously, and the flowers in her
hair smell like sex and blood and --

"Ow," he says. She's smacked him back to the
mattress, and is now holding him down with one
big, powerful hand.

"Down, boy."

It seems really unfair until he realizes that he's
making a concerted effort to jump her. "Er... sorry."
If he could just get his *hips* to stop doing that.

"Happens all the time," she says, and finishes off
the bottle, tossing it over the side of the bed. "The
*important* thing is that you seem to be... a little
too crowded." She looks like she's listening to
something serious and important and not actually
in the bedroom with them.

"Uh --"

"Who's in your head, Jason?"

I am, he says, and remembers that he isn't
supposed to be. But he can smell, and he can feel,
and if she puts one more pound of pressure on his
ribs they're going to snap like twigs.

It feels wonderful.

And he knows by the sad smile on her round, pretty
face that it won't la --


"What do you want?"

"Everything," he says and swallows the smell of
flowers and the taste of wine until it's deep enough
that maybe he won't lose it again.

"You can't have everything. No one can. And whatever
happened to 'peace?'"

Jason laughs. "Peace is *boring*."

And he leaps into the nothing, the way Dick used to,
the way that really should've broken his neck, and he
falls and tumbles and laughs and falls.


"I didn't think I'd wind up *here*," the man says, and
Jason has no idea who he is.

Still, it's nice to be back at the house, and he can be
friendly. "Where did you think you'd go?"

"Eh?" The man turns from looking at the pictures on
the mantelpiece. The Waynes, and Dick, and Barbara,
and... the pictures keep changing. "Oh, it's *you*."


"The dead Robin. Jason Todd."

He doesn't have to look down at himself to feel the
suit. He shrugs. "Who are you?"

"Thomas Elliott. And..." The man laughs. "Maybe I'm
in the right place, after all."

Jason tries to look helpful.

And then tries not to look alarmed, because the
man -- Elliott -- is kneeling in front of him.

"Er --"

"I'm sorry," Elliott says. "I'm so sorry."

"I... forgive you?"

Elliott smiles brilliantly, so brilliantly that Jason has
to smile back, even though he's as confused as he's
ever been.

Jason reaches out to help him up, and Elliott says,

"Thank you. So much."

And fades away.

Jason shrugs, and looks for Alfred. Maybe they --


"There's a lesson in that, you know."

He has to remember the wind in his hair, and the
tea, and Cassie's sharp, pink tongue. "Oh?"

"Death doesn't have to be so *difficult*, Jason."

He has to remember the alley, because Bruce does.
He has to remember that every snowflake is
different, and that Thomas Elliott is sorry. And --
"I never wanted to die," he says.

"Everyone has to sometime."

"Fuck that. And fuck *you*."

He leaps.


The line in his hands is sharp and hard, and if he
holds it any looser he'll slide down fast enough to cut
his hands to ribbons, gauntlets or no.

And then he'll turn himself into a greasy smear on
the street, far below. Or not. Maybe he'll just fade
away again.

He's got it, though. He's not letting go.

Not this time.

All he has to do --




-- is hold on.