Watch-Fires by Azurine


Jason didn't do what he was told. Nightwing POV.

This is me going, "Hmm. . .what if. . .?" and edging toward the dark end of the spectrum. Influenced, I realized after I wrote it, by [info]monkeycrackmary’s post about Robin II in which she said Jason's costume has made more appearances in the books than Jason himself ever did--this was supposed to be a story about Nightwing, but I guess Robin II wanted to come along. First DC fic I've ever actually finished. Go me.

Date Completed August 12th, 2004.

The heart of a man can be a nasty, brutal place, and this is especially true of the man called Bruce Wayne.

I should know. I've spent years learning the ins and outs of it.

When we're in the same room I can almost feel the cold void inside him, the endless space that should hold love and joy and the warm glow of human companionship. That place in him is empty, though it need not be. He has many people around him who would come to him in a minute if he gave any sign he would welcome us. We could fill that void.

He would never allow it.

He has rules he lives by, lines he draws, and he is ruthless in maintaining them. He makes no exceptions for himself or anyone else, and anyone who refuses to live within those rules and lines is ruthlessly shut out.

I should know. I was one of the first.

For years my life revolved around him. He was the cold, dead sun at the center of my universe. I wanted his approval and I wanted his friendship and I wanted his love. Approval was relatively easy to earn. Friendship came later, after I'd grown and gone.

Love was a fantasy, though I was too young and unwise to realize it at first.

I can remember maybe half a dozen times--usually when I was injured--seeing a glimmer of what he might feel for me, if he let himself. Those moments left me in misery for weeks, hoping for more.

Bruce can sense hope like a dog smells fear, and his reaction to it can be just as vicious. I don't know if it was resilience or desperation that kept my hope alive anyway.

I do know it was the latter that killed Jason.

I wasn't privy to everything--or even much of anything--that happened between Bruce and Jason, but I know enough, and I can imagine more. I imagine Bruce could have saved him, if he'd bent just a little. Just enough to let that boy take a piece of that void and make it his own.

But Bruce is a stubborn and unyielding man, and he leads a grim life, and he doesn't react well to attempts to change that.

And Jason was a boy so desperate for love he was willing to do anything to get it. Even run headlong into his grave.

I can see it like I was there, because I *lived* it. I know what Jason must have felt, and I know how Bruce must have reacted. He would have distanced himself ever more, because that was always how it worked.

It worked on me, anyway. It made me desperate to please him, to have back the tiny bit of him he allowed me. Camaraderie and respect, even gratitude, are not beyond him, after all.

Love, however, is quite so.

I've learned to live without it, but I've never learned how to not feel the loss.

But Jason wasn't like me--he didn't want to learn to live without it, and he wouldn't keep his hope hidden. When Bruce pulled away, Jason only got more demanding. More wild, more belligerent, more defiant. More reckless.

I admire him for it, in a way. I was much older before I was able to stand in the face of Bruce's icy restraint and not let it shatter me.

But Jason wouldn't give in. He *loved* Bruce, and he refused to give that up, no matter how far Bruce withdrew. Jason kept provoking him, each time hoping that maybe just this once Bruce would come through. Maybe this once, instead of turning his back, he would open his arms.

Love me. I dare you.

I could have told him it was pointless.

The day after Jason died, I watched Bruce hand Jason's uniform over to Alfred, and I saw something on Bruce's face I'll never forget.

I saw relief.

I think there was a part of him that was glad it was finally over, that whatever battle had raged between them was finally over.

I still haven't figured out who won.

Maybe Bruce really believes he keeps Jason's uniform in the Batcave as a memorial. I don't. I stand in front of that glass and I see an example of what happens when you don't live within the lines.

In my more bitter moments, I wonder about the wording on the plaque. A Good Soldier. Certainly, of all of us, Jason was the least obedient, the least cooperative. Only now, in death, is Jason finally a good soldier.

Because, really, isn't that what Bruce wants? Isn't that what he wants from all of us? An empty costume into which he can pour his every command, and expect nothing less than total compliance? And not ever be required to pay in emotions?

A void?

I'd laugh at the irony if I weren't so deathly afraid it's the truth.

There was a time when I thought maybe Jason could change him, but I suppose nothing can. He is still as he was, silent and inexorable and uncompromising. All the things that make him formidable on the streets make him just as dangerous at home.

Bruce is known for his self-control, for his refusal to kill.

He doesn't need to kill. He is capable of far more subtle and agonizing punishments. Especially when he feels cornered, when he feels too much is being asked of him--or too much of the thing no one is allowed to want.

I think that may be the only thing he truly fears--having someone close to him he cannot control.

I should know. I tried to be that someone.

Jason succeeded where I failed. He refused to stop longing for things he couldn't have.

He refused to see the lines.

The End

Leave a comment for this story

All recognizable characters belong to their creators. These works of fan fiction are not intended as an infringement upon any copyrights, and no profit is made by the writers. Do not archive these stories elsewhere without permission of the authors.