He can't breathe. There's not enough oxygen left to fill his lungs, and his racing pulse (spurred on by his panic) is taking more life out of him than his weary body can replace. "Btmn…" he chokes out, trying to scream out his mentor's, his savior's, his father's name; but all that comes out is this weak, pathetic croak that isn't worth the precious breath it took to force it out. He bits down on his lip and goes back to digging his way out of the damn wooden prison entrapping him. Droplets of crimson fall from his fingertips and wet his chapped lips, and he tastes copper. Good. If he can bleed, he is alive. If he can taste, he's alive.
If he can feel this desperate, this agonized, this scared, then he is alive.
How he doesn't know, and he doesn't care. Right now, he just needs to focus on getting out, getting to Bruce, getting home. He ignores the fact that he has no fingernails left, that his hands are soaked with blood, that his head throbs with lack of oxygen. He feels some of the wood give, and his heart rate increases, this time with hope.
But then, something goes wrong. He feels the wood shift again, even though he's torn most of the nerves in his fingers, and realizes that it isn't the material breaking. It's the material fixing itself. Moving into place. He gasps, choking on the starving inhale, and it's only a few seconds after that when he runs his palms over the wood above him, only to find it completely renewed. No breaks, no cracks… not even a single claw mark. It's healed itself, impossibly, and once again, he is completely trapped.
No, no, no, oh God, please no… He hammers his fists against this horrid, damned coffin, and as unconsciousness finally takes him into eternal sleep, Jason hears his throat force out a half sob, half scream. His last breath.
Jason Todd's formerly-still body suddenly arches on the medical cot's mattress, a violent series of convulses soon taking over as the machines the young man is attached to begin to screech and scream warnings. Immediately, Leslie Thompkins is pinning the unmasked Red Hood's arms down, while Alfred grasps his ankles and a haggard Dick Grayson throws himself across his younger brother's chest in an effort to control the seizes. "What's happening?!" Nightwing manages to call out as he holds onto the trembling, convulsing Jason as tightly as he can.
"Keep him restrained!" Leslie replies quickly and forcefully as she attempts to get her patient's pulse down to a count. "Could be anything – asphyxiation, heart problems, just a simple nightmare… give me a sec to get a read on his vitals… damn it, I'm gonna have to strap him down!"
Restraints are pulled out from underneath the mattress, and with swift, skilled fingers, Thompkins gets one of Jason's flailing hands beneath the leather buckles. Alfred manages to bind the former Robin's ankles, while Dick remains gripping the younger boy until both the doctor and the butler manage to finalize the confining of Todd.
Even when Jason's small seizure ends, Dick can't bring himself to lift his head from where it's pressed against Jason's heartbeat. The thumping sound, though quicker than normal, is rather soothing. It's a reminder, that Jason is alive, despite all odds, and that it'll be a flash before he's back up running around with his guns and that stupid helmet of his. He's fine, he tells himself as his forehead picks of the rising and falling of Jason's chest. He'll be fine. He's beaten death before… this is nothing compared to that. He'll be fine, and when Bruce comes back, maybe everything might even work out. Maybe Jason will be grateful for the help, maybe he'll stay at the Manor to heal, maybe everything won't go to hell like I fear it will…
"Master Dick?" Alfred's sound reaches his ears, floating down soothingly as the elder places a comforting hand on his shoulder. Dick forces himself to look up, to try and act stronger than he actually feels, and looks up with bleary, dizzy eyes as his surrogate grandfather frowns down at him. "Master Dick," the man repeats. "I believe that the situation is under control now, should you wish to return to your cot…"
Alfred sounds relieved that the small crisis involving Todd has passed, and Leslie is efficiently going over Jason for any more complications; but Dick doesn't trust the signs. He knows it too well, how everything can seem just fine, simply perfect, before all of hell comes crashing down. So, in response to Alfred's gentle insisting, he shakes his head wearily and slumps back down so that his face is lying beside Jason's side, forehead pressed against one of the younger boy's bare arms, eyes sliding shut as exhaustion fights for dominance.
Somewhere in the background noise, Damian is still involved in a bantering argument with Tim, whose been awake for two hours now. Even amongst all the confusion and stress and noise, Dick can hear the computers in the main part of the cave beep several times as an hourly alarm. It is now eight in the morning. And Bruce is still missing.
Why do you have to be so goddamn stubborn? he mentally reproofs his mentor/guardian/father. Why couldn't you just stay here until we could call in the League or someone to help? Why couldn't you just keep that damn cowl off you for more than ten minutes so I wouldn't be bedridden and worried sick to my stomach about you?
Alfred's hand tightens around his shoulder, and Dick can tell the man wants to continue insisting he should return to his own bed; but then something stops him, and with a gentle sigh, he walks away. Maybe Leslie had shaken her head, or maybe Alfred had realized on her own that Dick wasn't going anywhere right now. Either way, Dick was left alone, and he slumped even further down until he was on his knees by his brother's bedside, clutching at the sheet that's draped over Jason's now-motionless form, praying to whatever God might exist to just keep an eye on them. Because whenever the Joker becomes involved, it's no secret that Gotham becomes a spawning grounds for all sorts of ugly demons.
And it's also rather normal for the Bat family to be right in the thick of everything.
"You will not speak to me in that tone in my house!" Bruce roars, fists clenched at his sides as he glares down at the defiant teen standing across the room from him.
"Funny, cause I thought it was our house!" Jason spits right back, growling as he nearly punches a hole in the wall beside him. "Y' know, sharing comes with adoption! Our house, our family, our family business!"
"You're not ready for that business!"
"You've been training me for over a year!" the boy practically screams. "You've pushed me to my breaking point, then over! If I can endure you, I can endure anyone!"
"You go out there, you get yourself killed!"
"I stay in here, I might just KILL MYSELF!"
Just as Bruce's roar echoes throughout the entire manner, Dick runs into the room, wide eyed. "What's going on in…?"
"Dick, leave," Bruce says immediately, his eyes not leaving Jason's though his voice drops from furious to gentle in just a few seconds. "This isn't a good time for us to go out tonight, I'll talk to you late…"
Suddenly, rejection adds onto the list of wounds in his gut, and Jason points an accusing finger at the man in front of him, eyes flashing. "So that's why I can't go out with you tonight?! Not because you changed your mind about me being ready, but because you just wanted to patrol with him! Your real son!"
Dick's eyes soften as he gazes at his adoptive brother. "Jay…"
Jason won't listen. He doesn't want to. If he looks at Dick, he'll start to feel bad, and he'll start to feel foolish for starting this damn fight in the first place. So he grits his teeth and continues attacking Bruce. "I'll never go out on patrol because I'll never be your precious Dick Grayson!" he shouts out. "I'll never fit into the mold, I'll never be your perfect Robin! Why'd you even bother training me if I'll never hit the streets?! I'll never be by your side, because if I ever do, all you'll ever want is your old Robin back! Your beloved fucking Golden Boy!"
The scream of a lion is enough to stun Jason into fearful silence. He's pushed boundaries before, spent his entire life doing it. But he's never pushed this far before. Never outright bashed Dick, whose done nothing but try to love him. Never gotten Bruce this red-faced, this livid, this enraged. "You will not speak like that of an adult!" the man roars as he takes a step forward. Jason takes a step back. "And you will NEVER speak to Dick like that EVER AGAIN! Now go to your room and stay there until I send for you! Even think about going out the window and I will have GCPD on you in a minute, flat! Now GO!"
Jason goes, scowling, heart pounding as he races up the stairs. To his shame and horror, he feels wet rivulets run down his cheeks. He wipes them away angrily as he rushes into the room he'd been assigned, slamming the door behind him. "Send for me…" he chokes out as he collapses onto his bed, burying his head into the pillow just as the first sob comes out. "…you'll never send for me, you bastard." He tries to bring up more ill will against Dick, but finds he can't. He gives up after a minute, and just succumbs to the rage and hurt tearing himself apart. "No one will ever send for me…"
Damian Wayne looks up with concealed concerned as he hears Todd's life support machinery once again picking up a rapid pulse and labored breathing. He makes ready to go over there in case the older boy decides to go into another minor seizure, but before he can even stand up, Thompkins is by Todd's bedside, adjusting the IV bags and adding sedatives. The machines stop screeching, and all is calm once more.
Once he sees that the adults are finally on top of the situation, Damian eases himself back down so that he's returned to his former position – perched on a chair that's located at the foot of Drake's bed. Drake, whose fallen asleep once more, ebony hair cascading over the white bandages that envelope the teen's forehead. It makes him look like a mummy, and Damian snorts at the thought. It's a similar look to the one that Todd had used when he'd first emerged from the Lazarus Pit, the mummified look that he'd worn when he'd run around as Hush. Damian remembers seeing the pictures on the computers, and he casts another wary glance towards Todd, just daring him to get up and attack them. Try anything and I'll ruin you, the youth mentally threatens, pretending not to notice how the sight of Grayson lying so closely to the other boy disturbs him, makes his gut clench. He doesn't understand how Grayson can trust Hood so much. Hurt him in the slightest way, he adds onto his silent words to Todd as he casts a glance at Drake. Hurt any of them, and, I swear it, I will destroy you.
He's cold, so, so cold. And his arm throbs from where the cruel, uncaring motorist had struck him with a bike earlier. Wandering down Crime Alley, he wraps his arms around himself and clenches his teeth together to the point where his jaw hurts. He could be dead right now, and no one would care. Not even his mother. He could see that now. She didn't give a damn about anyone or anything but her precious drugs.
And to think he's spent the past three days looking for the bitch, hoping he'd find her, still believing he could fix their screwed up lives. Now, wet and in pain and desperate for something that could buy him food to eat, young Jason Todd leans back against a reeking dumpster and bows his head in misery.
That's when something shining in the storm catches his eye, and he looks in time to see four beautiful, shining chrome wheel plates directly before him. He can tell immediately: they must cost a few thousand, and they are in perfect condition. It's like God hasn't forgotten about this little street wretch after all, and Jason is ecstatic.
Only thing is, those money-representing-beauties are attached to none other than the Batmobile…
Bruce Wayne, with his bloodshot eyes blinking rapidly from underneath his cracked cowl, feels his pulse pounding throughout his skull painfully as he tries to clear his vision. When he does, he finds himself on the ground, the morning skies above him gray and drizzling. He remembers gas, knockout gas, and the sensation of blacking out, but that's about it. He looks around, trying to get his bearings, and notices water. The docks. Okay, so now he knows where he is. He's not as lost anymore, because he also recollects wandering around Gotham all night nonstop trying to find the Joker. He also remembers he's failed that goal, at least for the moment.
But then he looks up, and his breath catches as his jaw drops slightly. In his disoriented state, he can't help but shiver as he stares, horrified, at the four blood covered bodies hanging before him off a lamppost, the thick crimson fluid staining the bright red symbols on the victims' uniforms. It's not them – he knows that immediately – but Joker had caught innocent citizens representing his four sons, killed them, dressed them up in crappy, makeshift costumes that resemble the uniforms of Robin, Nightwing, Red Hood, and Red Robin, and hung them there for him to see. As a message. The words 'learn to leave the kiddies at home' are written below the bodies, in red spray paint, on the wet pavement; and Batman, for the first time all night, shows a sign of slight weakness. He lets his head fall into the palms of his hands, and he just sits there, gritting his teeth, slowly shaking his head. He won't get to you, he tells his sons in his mind, closing his eyes. He won't. Not this time. Not again.
He's running around desperately, finally letting his growing fear show as he continues to fail in his search for the one person whose ever been involved in his life. "Mom!" he screams, hoping she'll answer. Even if she's drunk, or high, or attached to some low-life scum whose decided to take advantage of her befuddled state, Jason won't care. As long as she'll go with him, back to their dingy apartment. As long as she's next to him, a shitty mother, but at least a mother at all, then Jason will be satisfied.
But she doesn't answer his calls. Numbly, he walks into the street, not looking, really not caring. Because she's left him for good this time, hasn't she? She's left her son to fend for himself, she's disappeared, and he's completely, utterly alone…
He doesn't see the cursing motorcycling thug until it's too late. Until he's flung into the air by the impact, until he sees that the man who'd hit him just keeps going as he hits the asphalt, until nothing but darkness remains to comfort him. That's fine, he's used to it by now… so, so used to it… "Mom…?"
Alfred is pretty sure he has a coronary when a hand from below suddenly grabs his own wrist in a painfully tight grip, and the British butler gasps when he looks down to see Jason gazing at him through half-closed eyelids, pupils dilated, irises foggy and glazed. The elder is just about to call for Leslie when the boy lying on the cot coughs and winces, tightening his grip on the man's hand.
"Mom…?" Jason Todd grumbles thickly, voice hoarse and nearly faded out completely as the young man closes his eyes, releasing Alfred's hand. As Alfred stares, he speaks again. "Where's my mom?" The words are close together and mumbled, but still coherent.
Alfred spins around and calls for Leslie, than returns his attention to Jason so that he can figure out just what is going on. But it's too late, because as soon as he turns away, Todd falls unconscious once more, and is silent.