Wrong Place, Wrong Time
Whumptober 2021: #7. Helplessness, #14. Crush Injuries, #20. Lost & Found, #21. Pressure, #31. Disaster Zone
Fandom: Batman, Batfam, Dick Grayson, Jason Todd
Word Count: 1822
“I don’t know, I thought it was pretty good.”
“Pretty good? That movie sucked! I am so sick of these endless reboots and pointless sequels. You told a good story. It’s over and done, move on and give us something new.”
You chuckled. “Yeah, this coming from ‘Robin 2: The Adventure Continues’.”
Jason glared at you, but Dick burst out laughing. “Oh, oh! How about ‘Robin 2: The Second One’.”
“‘Robin 2: Electric Boogaloo’!”
“‘Robin 2: The Rise of Jason Todd’!”
“And the gritty reboot ‘The Red Hood: Return of Jason Todd’.”
“Alright, alright, I get it. Very funny. Make fun of the dead guy.” Jason rolled his eyes as you and Dick high-fived each other. He jammed his hands in his pockets and began storming off.
“Formerly dead guy. You can’t keep playing that card forever.” You said teasingly, reaching out and linking your arm with Jason’s. You felt Dick link arms on your other side, so the three of you were all connected as you walked down the sidewalk.
Crime had been surprisingly low the last few days, so you had decided to enjoy yourselves and catch an afternoon movie. It wasn’t often the three oldest of Bruce Wayne’s wards managed to find time to hang out, and it felt like old times.
Jason had reluctantly dropped his scowl. He glanced over at the storefront on his right and stopped abruptly in amazement. He scoffed, “Oh my god! Did you guys see this?”
As you and Dick turned, you let out a small chuckle of surprise as you saw display after display of merchandise bearing a variety of bat symbols. All of you were represented in some form or another. Bruce’s Batman on a shower curtain, Dick’s Nightwing on a blanket, Jason’s Red Hood on a bathrobe, Tim’s Red Robin on a coffee mug, and Damian’s Robin on a coloring book. But the thing that really caught your eye was the hoodie that looked like a replica of your costume, complete with mask built into the hood and your signature Bat-Insignia across the front. Glancing at the sign, you chuckled again at the name. The Bat Cave.
“Did either of you know about this?” you asked.
Dick and Jason both shook their heads in disbelief. Then Jason snorted, “I think somebody owes us some royalties or something. Those things are trademarked.”
You laughed, but knew he was probably right. Suddenly, you realized something was missing. Cursing under your breath, you turned and hurried back towards the theatre. Both boys turned to watch you speed away.
“Where are you going?” Dick called after you.
You yelled back over your shoulder. “I forgot my sunglasses. I’ll be right back.”
Just as your hand reached the door to the theatre, you heard Jason yell, “Hey, dumbass!”
Glancing back, you saw Jason smirking as he pointed to the top of his head. Reaching up to your own head, you felt the sunglasses perched there. You blushed as you placed them on your face, sheepishly turning back to the boys. You shrugged dramatically and took a step in their direction. That’s when the theatre exploded.
Jason and Dick were thrown backward by the blast, landing in a heap about ten feet from where they had been standing. Groaning, both boys struggled to sit up and regain their bearings. People were screaming all around them and smoke curled out of the scant remains of what had just been the theatre.
All the blood rushed out of Jason’s face as he muttered, “Y/N.” He scrambled to his feet as Dick paled and frantically followed suit. They took off running towards the area they thought they had last seen you, but it was almost impossible to tell where anything had once been. When they thought they are in the approximate area, they began shifting desperately yet carefully through the rubble, screaming out your name. Jason couldn’t help but wonder if this was how Bruce had felt as he searched for Jason’s body years ago. Finally, Dick moved a hunk of cement and saw as a hand appeared from underneath of it. He instantly recognized the bracelet that he had given you for your birthday on the wrist.
“Jay, over here! I found her!”
Feverishly, the two boys moved pieces of rock and debris, slowly uncovering more and more of your broken form, until the only wreckage that remained was a large section of the theatre wall that was too heavy for them to move. It was still pining you to the ground from the waist down, but there wasn’t any more they could do at the moment, so they began assessing your injuries.
You were laying awkwardly, half on your side, half on your back. Every inch of you was covered in a thick layer of dust and grime. The left side of your face was skinned raw where you had skidded across the asphalt. Your sunglasses were destroyed, the remains of which dangled haphazardly from your face. Dick carefully removed what was left and noticed that they had been rammed against your nose with such force, they had shattered bones and blacked both of your eyes. The rest of your body was littered with bruises, burns, blood, and small cuts while your breathing was irregular and strained. Dick and Jason both crouched down next to you and tried to rouse you but at first you barely stirred. Finally, they watched as your eyes flickered open with a pained groan.
“Wha – what happened?” Your voice was hoarse and weak.
Dick and Jason exchanged a worried glance before Dick said, “We’re not sure. There was an explosion in the theatre. You were still at the door and it seems like you took a pretty bad hit. You were completely buried when we found you and we still can’t move that big piece off your legs. It is too heavy for just the two of us. Jay, you stay here and I’m going to go get help.”
“Sweetheart, we have to get you out from under that thing. You need medical attention immediately. Who knows what kind of internal bleeding you have or if there are any worse injuries this piece of wall is concealing.”
“You’re right, which is why it won’t matter. I can feel it. My leg…. Well, I’m pretty sure the pressure from this wall is the only thing keeping me from bleeding out immediately. As soon as you move it…. So, yeah, it’s too late to do anything.”
Jason sat back on his heels, horrorstruck, as Dick shook his head vehemently refusing to believe what you had just said. “We can at least try. As soon as the paramedics get here, they can help us. They’ll know what to do.”
You smiled hazily up at your brothers. “It’s okay, Dick. I’m not in much pain at the moment, it’s more numb than anything, but if you move that piece of wall, it’s going to be utter agony. And it still won’t matter. So, please, just let me go in peace.”
Jason hissed in fury, “We can’t just sit here and watch you die!”
“I don’t want you to. It might be too late for me but you two can go help the other people who were injured. You might still be able to save them.”
“We’re not leaving you.”
“It’s what we do. We’re heroes, Jay.”
“Not today we aren’t.” Dick said through a clenched jaw. You furrowed your brow in confusion. “Today we are just three siblings who wanted to spend the day together. Who just deserved a goddamn break for once in their lives. And instead, this happens. So, no. Today we aren’t heroes. There are enough other people walking around helping right now. We’re going to stay with you for as long as we can. I don’t care what that makes us.”
You grabbed Dick’s hand as tightly as you could manage as tears began to flow down his face. “It makes you a good brother.”
You smiled up at him and started to say something else, but a chest rattling cough cuts you off. Your brothers held you down, so you didn’t hurt yourself more as your body was racked with the intense hacking fit. Finally, when it subsided, you relaxed, blood dripping from your mouth. You looked up at Dick and weakly said, “I guess you were right on both accounts. Internal bleeding and a concealed wound. Huh, who knew?”
Before either boy could answer, you gave a dry chuckle and said, “You know, I always thought I would die in the suit. Going down swingin’ with my Bat Symbol proudly on my chest and my mask firmly on my face. Instead, it’s going to be flip flops and Jason’s old t-shirt.”
Jason thought for a minute, then stood up. “I’ll be right back. Dick, stay with her.” Dick just nodded numbly.
A few moments later, Jason came rushing back carrying the hoodie resembling your suit you had seen in the souvenir shop what seemed like a lifetime ago. For the first time since the explosion, tears filled your eyes.
“It’s not your suit, but it’s the best we’ve got at the moment.” As carefully as he could and with Dick’s help, Jason gingerly wrapped the oversized hoodie around you and zipped it up as much as he could. Then he pulled the hood down over your face, so the built-in mask framed your eyes.
You slowly lifted your fingers and traced the familiar emblem that rested over your heart. “Thank you, Jay. It’s perfect.”
“Least I could do.” Jason kissed you knuckles and smiled sadly down at you. Keeping ahold of your hand, he began rubbing his thumb lightly over the back of it, a constant reminder he was with you. Dick shifted so he was behind you and lifted your head so it was resting comfortably in his lap. You felt that the tension was so thick with all of the unspoken things between the three of you, that it was almost suffocating. Or maybe that was just your blood filling your lungs.
You felt your head starting to get fuzzy as your vision began to blacken around the edges, and you knew you didn’t have much time left. You nuzzled your cheek softly into Dick’s leg and gave Jason’s hand another squeeze. After taking a few deep breaths, you managed to croak out, “Hey…. I love you guys.”
“Back at you sis,” Jason tearfully bent down and kissed your forehead.
You smiled up at them as your world went black. Jason felt your hand go limp in his, and he frantically looked to Dick, hoping beyond hope his older brother would make this all betters. But Dick just gazed down at your empty, staring eyes, tears streaming down his face. All he could think in that moment was, “How the hell are we supposed to tell Bruce?”
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It didn’t hurt, but it was still there.
Marcy could feel it under her shirt; the little lump on her chest, one that you could see glowing if she didn’t wear enough layers. Only a select few people knew of it on Earth, and nearly all of them were named Boonchuy. If anyone else asked why she’d wear a hoodie at ninety degrees, she’d just tell them she didn’t feel the heat that much.
The lump didn’t really phase her too much anymore - it was irritating, but she needed it to live, like a magical pacemaker. It was the other ailment that got her.
It seemed like some kind of hackneyed trope from a bad anime or one of the lesser outings of the Disney canon, but she was literally heartless.
There was some… thing, some contraption built in a lab, and it worked quite well. It kept the blood pumping well, probably better than her old heart, but it didn’t beat, and there was something really disconcerting about not having a heartbeat.
It was late evening, and she found herself sitting at the Boonchuys’ garden table, looking up at the sunset. She could faintly hear the TV inside; Hop Pop had gotten Olivia and Yunan into some kind of British soap opera, and Anne, Sprig and Polly were doing something on Anne’s laptop upstairs, but she’d needed some quiet time. It was weird; she’d been entrapped and alone for so long; why would she crave solitude now?
The door opened, and Marcy turned her head. Mrs. Boonchuy had stepped out into the garden, carefully closing the door behind her.
“Marcy, are you sure you don’t want to go inside?” she asked.
“Oh! Uh, hey Mrs. Boonchuy!” replied Marcy, waving nervously. “No, it’s all good, I’m fine!”
“Are you sure?” said Mrs. Boonchuy. “You’re going to be eaten by mosquitoes.”
Marcy brushed a mosquito off her arm. “It’s okay, I can brush ‘em off. Everything’s good!”
Mrs. Boonchuy pulled up a chair and sat down next to her.
“You know, if you ever need to say anything…”
“No, really, it’s good!”
Marcy forced a smile onto her face.
“I mean, your house kinda got turned into a reptile house, and that’s kinda my fault,” she said, “and that’s because I got Anne trapped in another dimension for five months, you know, also my fault, and now all I do is sit around your house feeling sad because my parents bugged out on me, which is also my fault…”
Mrs. Boonchuy put a hand on her shoulder.
“You can’t change what happened,” she said. “What’s done is done.”
“And don’t ever tell yourself your parents leaving was your fault,” she added.
“I mean, I clearly wasn’t a good enough kid for them to stay…”
“No.” Mrs. Boonchuy’s voice was utterly firm. “They weren’t good enough parents.”
Her eyes narrowed.
“One day I will find and destroy them,” she whispered.
Marcy looked down at the table.
“I don’t deserve this,” she muttered.
“I don’t deserve this!” she threw her arms up. “Why are you forgiving me! Why is Anne forgiving me! I’m the one who caused all this! If I’d never opened the box, you wouldn’t have had to go through losing Anne! Olivia and Yunan would still have jobs! Andrias wouldn’t be wrecking half of Amphibia looking for Sasha! Why doesn’t anyone blame me?”
“You should hate me! I want you to hate me!” shouted Marcy. “I just… you keep being so nice to me and I don’t deserve it! I just… I just…”
She clutched the edges of the table, gritting her teeth.
“I just wish Andrias had killed me!”
She slammed her head against the table, clutching her head.
Mrs. Boonchuy just about tumbled off of her chair, landing on her knees next to Marcy and pulling her straight into a hug.
“Marcy, no,” she whispered, patting her back. “You don’t mean that, please don’t say that.”
“I ruined everything!” Marcy sobbed. “I ruined everything and everyone’s trying to act like it never happened and it’s not my fault, and I just… I feel so guilty and small and stupid, and every time I try to forget about it I have that stupid lump in my chest and that stupid fake heart and…”
“It’s okay, sweetie, just let it all out,” Mrs. Boonchuy whispered.
Marcy gritted her teeth again, her arms frozen to her sides, wanting to hug Mrs. Boonchuy back but completely paralysed.
“I want you to hate me,” she wheezed. “Why do I want you to hate me? Why am I like this?”
“Because you’re hurting,” replied Mrs. Boonchuy. “And it’s okay. We all are.”
“I… but I don’t hurt?” she replied. “Not physically?”
“You don’t have to get a scar to be hurt, Marcy,” said Mrs. Boonchuy.
She leaned out of the hug, running her hand over Marcy’s eyes.
“You did something wrong,” she said. “But you never meant to hurt anybody, and now you’re working to fix it. That’s all anybody can ask.”
Marcy sniffled loudly.
“I’m a bad friend…”
“No.” Mrs. Boonchuy put a finger to her mouth. “I don’t want to hear you calling yourself bad anymore tonight, okay? Because when you say that, you don’t just hurt yourself.”
Marcy looked down.
“I… I didn’t think about how you’d feel when I said that,” she muttered. “Guess I really am heartless.”
Mrs. Boonchuy gently squeezed her wrist.
“You do have a heart, Marcy,” she said. “Feel it?”
She guided Marcy’s other hand to her wrist, pressing her finger about it. She felt the gentle thump of her pulse - ba-bump. Ba-bump. Ba-bump.
Marcy smiled gently.
“I guess I do.”
She looked up; the sky had darkened, and she could just about see a spattering of stars through the light pollution.
“Didn’t realise how long I’d been out here,” she said quietly.
“Would you like to come inside and help me with dinner?” Mrs. Boonchuy asked.
“Yeah,” she replied. “I’d like that.”
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A Small Hope
For @whumptober2021 day 22: Cursed | Demon | Obsession
CW: Religion talk, confession, just like so much catholic guilt, vampirism, vampire whumpee, shame, immortal whumpee, damnation talk, negative stimming, emotional manipulation, referenced past historical ableism, blackmail, what happens in this chapter is very important later on…
Saugerties, New York, December 1912
Tristan is certain, at first, that the heavy wooden doors of the church will not open to him. His hands hover over the wrought-iron handles, curved in a beautifully fluid arch, one for each side. He feels like an intruder, although he’s spent most of his childhood in and out of churches like this one, in Ireland at first, and later on in the big church in the city where all the Irish from his tenement went, more or less together.
His mother had always made friends easily, and she had walked in a group with other mothers, the only one with only a single living child except for Bridget Sullivan, who was newly-married with just an infant.
He’d asked his mother, once, why she had only him, when everyone else they knew had other children running them ragged. She’d smiled at him, and said, you were a gift, and one given to me in God’s grace far earlier than we thought you would be.
He thinks, as he looks back, that he must have hurt her somehow, in being born, and that was why there had never been another child. But she’d never acted as if she wanted anything more than just him.
He’s lost in thought, looking over the doors but seeing far beyond them, looking back in time, when behind him someone clears their throat, discreet but unmistakable.
Tristan spins around, surprised. The sun is setting, throwing a golden light over the tombstones marking the graves that line either side of the churchyard, some tilted, some still wholly upright. Most of the names there are as Irish as his own. There are other churches he could go to, for certain, but his pack leader William had suggested this one.
Best to go away from the city, he’d said, take the train to a place where no one could possibly know him.
“I’m sorry,” Tristan says immediately, not sure exactly what he’s apologizing for.
A priest stands there, wearing a heavy coat over his cassock, a knit hat pulled down to cover his ears. His nose is bright red from the cold, marked along his cheeks. He’s younger, maybe thirty. Tristan’s priest back in Ireland was an old man, the priests before he died in the cathedral in New York City had been older than this, too.
“Hello,” The young priest says, with a kind smile, and a slightly flattened accent that tells Tristan he was born nearby, has probably lived his whole life here. “You must be freezing. I’m sorry, I stepped out to take a walk ‘round the churchyard. Come in, it’s warm inside.”
Tristan doesn’t really notice the cold any longer, but he puts a smile on his face. He’s glad he wore a coat, scarf, and hat himself, now. Otherwise he might have been known for what he is right away.
“Thank you,” He says, stepping to the side. The priest moves up the steps and opens the door, gesturing Tristan in ahead of him.
He holds his breath as he steps forward, wondering if he will burst into flames, be sent down to hell, the second his feet move onto such holy ground. Perhaps the very Voice of God will shake the earth with His anger at His sacred place being desecrated by Tristan’s very existence.
He walks inside like any other person, one foot before the other, and lets out breath he didn’t need to hold. Inside, the church is warmer, although not by much. The setting sun throws light through the stained glass, colors dancing through portrayals of the Creation, the Fall, the birth and life and suffering and death of Christ Himself.
He would have expected judgmental, hateful eyes on him even from the glass, but instead… it feels peaceful here, just like it used to. The eyes of the Blessed Virgin seem as kind and loving as they ever did. She looks, in the painting, like he remembers his mother looking.
When he was little, the church was a quiet place he could stay when the outside world was too loud, too much. The priests never minded him sleeping under the pews while his mother did her errands. They were happy to let him trot after them to feed the chickens and gather eggs from the little coop they kept in the back. Father Sean had even told the young Tristan he might be a good priest himself, one day, if he felt called to it.
You bring peace with you, Father Sean had said.
Even after moving to the tenement building and the rush and noise of the city, he had learned fast he could duck into St. Joseph’s when the city overwhelmed him and let the familiar accents and songs of home soothe him. He had learned that the priests would let him sit in quiet, would see him rocking and swaying and leave him to it until he stood and left again, without speaking, without needing to.
Back in Ireland they called him touched, but Father Sean called him blessed.
All the world and his life changed around him in ways he could not bear at first - but the church was always the same. The routines were the same, here and back home, the words he repeated were the same. The faces changed but were the same, even so. He could be comfortable in a church, knowing that nothing there would ever surprise him.
It would always be a church, Mass would always be Mass. He could trust its sameness, he could rest in it.
For a mind like Tristan’s, that demanded routine and sameness to feel safe, it had been more home than the apartment they’d lived in, the three of them sharing a room big enough for perhaps three pairs of shoes to fit, it felt like some days.
He’s pulled back to the present by a hand to his back.
“I’m Father Michael,” The priest says. When Tristan shivers, he pulls back. “Oh, you’re freezing. Did you have to wait long?”
Tristan doesn’t know how to begin to explain that he will only warm to the temperature of the room he is in unless he’s newly fed, when fresh blood keeps him hot to the touch for a few hours and then cools within the prison of his dead body. He can’t bear to admit that he isn’t cold, only surprised that he hasn’t lit on fire from the priest’s holy hand.
He only half-smiles, looking off to the side. He never could look into anyone’s eyes for long, and that’s only gotten harder since his death. “Not so, so long,” He says, in a low voice. His eyes move over the stained-glass image of Eve and Adam in the Garden, their nudity obscured by painted green leaves, each of them with a hand underneath the apple between them, painted a garish, bloodied red.
And the serpent twisting down the tree behind, fangs visible with its mouth wide open.
Tristan’s tongue pushes against his own fangs in a burst of shame, and he steps slightly away from the priest’s touch, as if he will sully him by even such small contact. “I, I, I came to make, um, confession, Father.”
“Of course. When you are ready, enter the confessional, and someone will come to hear your confession.” Father Michael’s smile is so warm and so kind. Tristan hopes that it will be someone else who comes to hear his sins. He doesn’t want to see Father Michael's cheerful friendly expression cool to loathing or crack apart in fear.
Father Michael moves away from him, out of the vestibule and with stately dignity at odds with his youth through the aisles and into a door behind the altar. Tristan is alone, for the moment, to make his slow way after him.
He sees a coin box with candles off to one side, under an image of the Christ with his hands held open to children who crowd around his feet. Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not; for of such is the kingdom of God. The verses come easily to his lips, and his tongue doesn’t burn when he whispers them, his mouth does not fill with acid.
It gives him some small hope, that he may be loved even as a monster.
He digs a coin out of his pocket and drops it into the box with a small metallic clink to join others already in there. He takes the matches and lights first one candle, then another, and sets them carefully into the places set for them, raising his eyes to look up at the way the artist who made this stained glass has so captured a look of calm understanding in the eyes of a Christ who looks back down at him.
His parents are held in those arms, he thinks. Far, far away from him, they are held in perfect peace.
Far away from him.
“Eternal rest grant unto them, O' Lord and, and-and let the Perpetual Light shine upon them.” As always, the memorized prayers come more easily to Tristan’s mouth than his attempts to speak for himself ever do. He thinks of his mother and father, and tries to picture their smiles instead of the final sight of their bloodied bodies. “May the souls of the faithful, departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. A, Amen.”
He glances to one side - there is no one but him here, now, as the sun’s light turns from yellow to orange, and the shadows are heavy and dark along the floor. Then he reaches out and holds his palm, fingers out, directly over the candle’s flickering flames.
He feels nothing.
No pain, no warmth, nothing at all.
Only the twist of pain in his chest, that his parents have gone so long unprayed-for. He supposes their friends and the priests back in the tenement neighborhood probably speak this prayer for them, or at least he hopes so. But this is the first time he’s come back into a church since his turning to say it himself.
He turns and heads for a pew right at the front, dropping quickly to his knees to cross himself before he rises again to sit. His eyes wander upwards, to Christ suffering on the Cross. His eyes are closed, His face slack. Painted blood runs from His crown of thorns.
Real blood doesn’t look anything like that at all.
Tristan crosses himself again, and then wonders if he should have done that or not.
He doesn’t burn, with these holy symbols. He had expected - maybe even, in some small way, hoped - to burn.
His eyes slowly close. Will You forgive me, for what I have become? You, if no one else does? You, if I confess?
His lips move without sound in the form of a prayer that is wholly secret, entirely his own. Only when he feels his lips press briefly together for the amen does he stand again. He is still alone in the nave, but he knows that the priest - or priests, if there is more than one here right now - will be watching and waiting to see when he is ready.
The confessional booth is beautiful, wrought of wood that has a flowing pattern like a river held in place. He lets his fingertips move over the smooth carved angles around one edge before he closes the little door and takes a seat on the small padded bench provided within.
On one side, blank wall.
On the other, a screen that will allow him to speak with a priest without having to see the man’s face. He sits there, rocking to soothe his nerves, forward and back. His fingers dance along his thighs, finger-twist-tap-tap-tap, up to his stomach. Each touch a rush of reassurance, soothing the cacophony of the world outside his mind.
Even here, in the quiet of the church, the tapping is what keeps him feeling safe. In school the nuns would sometimes tie down his hands or hit them with sticks to stop him - but the priests in St. Joseph’s said that God understood the need to be always moving.
There is the sound of the door on the other side opening, of the priest settling into his own seat.
When he quiets, Tristan whispers, “Bless me, Father, for I have sinned. It has, has, has been…” Tristan stares at the beautifully smooth paneled wood within the confessional booth, trying to think of just how long he’s been away from the religion his mother had held so tightly, in such certainty and awe. “Seven years since, since, since my last confession.”
There is a pause, and he sees the shadow of the priest moving through the tiny holes of the divider between them. “You sound young, my son, to have gone so long away from seeking absolution for your sins.”
It’s not Father Michael’s voice. This man sounds much older. Tristan feels a savage relief, that he doesn’t know what the man looks like, that he will not be able to picture his reaction when he begins to speak honestly and openly about what he is.
“I, I, I sound younger than I am.” He hopes the hint of wry, bitter humor he feels at the words doesn’t show in his voice. “But it has been seven years, an, anyway.”
“And how is your faith, my son?”
Tears strike his eyes, and Tristan hurriedly wipes them away, rubbing his dampened fingers on his pants so that the streaks of pink won’t mark his face when he steps out. “It, it, it wavers, Father. Since, since I lost, um, my, my my my my parents, it-... it wavers-...”
There is a brief silence. “When did you lose your parents?”
“Um.” He has to count, but the years move without meaning, now, without any meaningful change in him. It makes it hard to track. “In, in, 1904… I think. Or ‘05.”
“Ah. Please accept my condolences for your loss, my son, and my reassurances that it is common for faith to waver after the death of those we love. It is common, but there is Grace in Christ’s Mercy, and a place in Glory. Were your parents of the faith?”
“Yes. My, my, my my my mother al, always... my father be, became so to marry her.” His accent thickens even just talking about it, he can hear himself stop trying to dampen and smooth out the singsong lilt of his speech.
It feels good to do that, too.
“Rest, my son, in the knowledge that your parents are in Glory now. The Faithful will be cared for unto the end of days and beyond.”
Tristan nods, as though the priest could see him do it. His chest hitches with air he draws into himself from habit, not need. He nearly cries, here and now, just to hear it said out loud. No one has said such a thing to him in years. It hurts to hear it, but in a way that feels like the pain of washing out an infected wound. “Thank, thank y-you, Father. Um, I, I… need to tell you… I need to confess my sins.”
“Of course. What weight do you bear and bring to lay at the feet of our Lord?”
“I, I, I did not save them,” Tristan whispers. “When they died. May, maybe I could h-have, but, um, but but but I didn’t-... they were killed before my eyes, and I, I did nothing. I could not move at all, I felt such fear, Father. I... I could not move. I, I only watched as they were-... murdered.”
“This is not a weight you carry,” The priest replies, in a low voice, authoritative and sure. “Feel peace, child, for your parents’ deaths are not your cross to bear.”
He nods, again. “Thank you,” He whispers, and he means it, his gratitude is sharp as a blade, he bleeds within himself. Not his fault. “Also, I… my, my parents were killed by the-... the Un-Dead.”
Now it’s the priest’s turn to hitch in a sudden deep breath in surprise. “Were they? Oh, my child, you must have been so frightened. Were they Turned?”
“No.” He closes his eyes. His hands are fists clenched in the rough fabric of his pants. He tells himself that now is the time to be brave. There is no sin that God has not heard before, that’s what Father Patrick back in the city church used to tell him. God has seen it all, Tristan, and there is no evil new under His sun.
“There is that grace, at least.”
“At least.” His lips barely move. It takes everything in him to speak the next words “But… Father, I-... my parents weren’t Turned, but, but, but… I was.”
Silence draws out, unbearably heavy, in the air between them. The priest shifts - Tristan can hear the bench he sits on creak with his movements.
Here it comes.
Tristan waits for the lightning bolt to strike, the church to crack apart under the demonic influence of his very presence. His eyes close tightly, and he jams the heels of his hands against them. This time, he can’t hold back the sound of his sob, the cries of his shame.
“You chose the Path of the Un-Dead?” The priest asks, in a shocked, horrified whisper. “You chose to be a demon rather than to walk with your parents in Paradise?”
“No! I didn’t!” He groans, smacking at the wood in front of him, rocking back so the back of his head hits the wood behind him. He hears the priest jump at the sound, and wonders if he’ll run from the confessional, if he’ll run screaming from the church, run from the demon child in the booth beside him, run from the confession of evil itself. “I didn’t, didn’t, didn’t! I, I, I said no, I asked for death, I, I prayed and prayed, but no one answered me! I was not saved! I, I prayed for help, but, but but but… but but I died, anyway!”
He can’t bear the silence that is his only immediate answer.
“Worse, worse Father, I, I had them, had them Turn the aunt who had my my parents killed and make her die twice. I am wicked, I have done s-such evil from anger, to… to d-do what I did… I didn’t want to be dead, I didn’t want to to hurt anyone, I never w-wanted-... I only wanted to live, I, I only wanted to live… I only wanted my parents to live...”
He sobs, voice broken, leaning back over to curl over his legs, arms tucked against his stomach, hugging himself. Pink-tinged tears leak like dripping blood onto the floor of the booth. Somehow, they do not hiss or steam.
“Now I am, am evil, I’m... For, for for me to live, Father, others have t-to die. I-I’m careful, I’m so careful, I almost never kill now, but, but but but but-but sometimes… please, am-... am I damned? Please, Father, please, tell me what-what to do, tell me…”
Tell me there is hope.
“Tell me I, I will see them again, Father.” He begs in a broken whisper, and the silence from the priest makes him feel like he is dying all over again, torn apart by pain that is entirely internal this time. “Tell me I I will see m-, my parents, please, please tell me I’ll see them again… even if it is only a glimpse before I am hellbound, please-”
“You have been placed on a path of damnation,” The priest says, finally, in a flat voice, and Tristan’s sobs grow louder. Then the door to the priest’s side opens and closes, and Tristan wonders if the priest will leave him here to cry until there is no blood left in him, leave him to flee, a demon thrown from the promise of the Garden, an abomination who will never see Grace.
When his own door opens, he is shocked enough to sit back up, heedless now of the tears that still stream from him, his mouth open in a grief-stricken snarl, showing his fangs. The priest stands there, looking down at him, and crosses himself.
He’s much older than Father Michael. He might be in his sixties, or even older.
“Christ protect me,” The father murmurs, and then he holds out his hands. “Please, my son. Listen to me.”
Tristan looks up at him. His green eyes glittery, the whites are totally pink from weeping. “Father?”
“You have been placed on a path of damnation, this is true,” The priest says, gently, and he takes Tristan’s hands in his own, rubbing his thumbs over the vampire’s knuckles. His hands are warm, and not nearly so roughly calloused as those of the people Tristan grew up with. He wonders if the priest was from a wealthy family, first. “I have been taught that hope in grace is for the living, not the un-dead, but… but this does not have to be the truth of your fate. God will find the one sheep lost, this we are told. If a man have an hundred sheep, and one of them should go astray: doth he not leave the ninety-nine in the mountains, and go to seek that which is gone astray?”
He leans forward.
It’s a risk, Tristan knows.
If he were anyone other than who he is, he could throw himself at the priest and rip out his throat right now, drink his blood hot right on the floor of the house of God.
But he isn’t like the rest of his pack, and so he holds still, looking up with desperate need into the face of a priest who may hold the key to the only desire he still has. “What, what, what should should I do for penance, Father?”
“Your death is not a sin of yours,” The priest speaks firmly. “Neither is that of your parents. But the death of your aunt… this is a grievous sin, my son. Even if you did not kill her with your own hands-”
“... even so, to have her killed is murder. And you were damned by the nature of what you are. But…” He raises a hand to cup his warm palm against Tristan’s face, and he ducks his head into the touch, crying openly, letting his pink tears stain the man’s skin. The man’s thumb rubs over the line of his cheekbone, and it is such a simple thing, to be held.
A simple thing that he denies himself now.
“Do good,” The priest says, finally. “Be a force for good for the living, and you may one day have tilted the scales in favor of grace. I cannot give you absolution, child. You are not my mine to forgive. But the Lord knows our souls, and He knows yours. Dedicate your life to doing no harm to God’s Children - as little as you must, and each time you do harm you must balance that sin with an act of goodness - and one day… one day He may let you rejoin them.”
Tristan takes this in, and nods, slowly. He rocks forward and back while he thinks, eyes closing, then opening again. “I, I, I can be forgiven?”
“I don’t know, child.” The priest pulls away from him, gesturing for him to stand. He exhales in a slow sigh. “I don’t know. You must live your time as the walking dead doing your utmost to overcome how you must do harm to live. And you must never, ever create more of your kind. You must never Turn a soul to the Un-Dead.”
Tristan moves back out into the aisle, following behind the priest, allowing himself to be led back through the vestibule and to the door. “I, I won’t, Father. I won’t. I, I never w-want to... Thank-... thank you, Father, th-thank you.”
“If ever you create another, the door to salvation will be wholly closed to you.”
“I, I know.”
“I cannot tell you to go in peace,” the priest says softly. “Your kind is damned to walk in sorrow. But I tell you to go with God’s love, and with hope.”
The vampire boy goes, walking down the steps with new lightness even as the night sky above him is showing the first twinkling stars in the frigid air. His heavy boots crunch through a dusting of snow, matching the white of the church’s exterior. The bare tree branches overhead seem like they cut apart the sky when he looks up.
He walks down the street. There will be one more train back to where his pack lives, and he can get there without them having realized he’s been gone, if he’s careful. William had told him he could come out here to find a church, and that he’d keep Tristan’s secret. The pack leader had been kinder, lately. Sweeter, holding Tristan sometimes and sleeping next to him during the day, listening to his fears and his worries.
It had been William who told him he might be able to have his confession heard here, that he could speak the truth without worry he’d be staked afterward.
Tristan walks with a lightness to his step he hasn’t had in years.
When he is safely gone, a pale figure steps out from behind a tall memorial-stone marking the death of some rich someone-or-other, moving across the snow in total silence. The priest, though, is not surprised when the man - white of hair, and skin, so pale he seems like part of the environment - steps up in front of him.
“William,” The priest says, voice hard now, and cold.
“Timmy,” The vampire replies, bright and cheerful.
“Father Timothy,” The priest replies, rubbing his hands against the cold. “And you know it. I’d ask you inside, but I’d be afraid you’d poison the place with your presence.”
“Still the same delightful scamp as when we were children.”
“Were you ever truly a child? I have my doubts.”
“Oh, hush it. Did you take his confession?”
Father Timothy’s jaw sets. “I did.”
“What did he say?”
“That’s private, between he and God. I will not speak of it.”
“Fine, fine. You Catholics are always so fussy.” William crosses his arms, unbothered. “I’ll ask you this - did you tell him he is damned?”
Father Timothy frowns. “Yes. I did as you said.” He doesn’t mention that he said much, much more than that. That he did not lock the door, but left it cracked open to have the warmth and light of God visible, a promise to be kept for all.
“Well, at least now he’ll stop all his mooning about over that rosary he found. It was getting irritating.”
Father Timothy struggles with a new spike of guilt. The poor creature wanting only to find his way back to the light, and here Timothy had sent him into darkness with only a small candle. “William, as we discussed-”
“Right, right. Hanging work, Timmy-”
William ignores him. “Your family’s safe as houses. There will be no mysterious attack on your sister’s children. She grew up a fine homely woman, didn’t she? Her granddaughter’s quite the beauty. Now, I’ll go wash down this happy little double-cross with good blood. I suggest you do the same with your whiskey.”
“Begone, demon,” Father Timothy says tightly. “You know I don’t touch the stuff.”
“Not anymore, you don’t. I remember.”
“Then try to remember how loudly it is I once said I hoped never to see you again.”
William gives him a cheerful little wave of his fingers, and then he moves back into the churchyard cemetery, seeming to simply fade into the snow. Father Timothy stares, the light from within the church at his back, the cold darkness of the growing night before him, until William has long-since disappeared.
“Father Timothy?” Father Michael speaks from behind him, fingertips just barely brushing his cassock.
Timothy jumps, his heart leaping out of time, reaching up to put his palm over his chest as he spins around to see the young priest looking at him, blinking in surprise hand still up. “Oh! Oh. Apologies, Father Michael, I was-... a bit lost in thought.”
“Clearly. Did you take the boy’s confession?”
For a second, Father Timothy thinks Michael is speaking of William, and he nearly starts to laugh bitterly at the very idea that William would confess a sin for any reason but to brag about it. Then he realizes Michael means the young vampire boy with the red hair and settles, smoothing his cassock, shaking his head.
“I did, I did,” He says, closing the heavy doors against the cold, the two of them back within the barest warmth of the vestibule. “He’s been and gone.”
“Oh, good. It’s odd of you to volunteer for a confession, usually you have me take them these days.”
“Hm. The old bones don’t do so well sitting and standing as they used to.” Father Timothy ignores the pang of guilt within his own soul. “But I felt called to this one. Is our supper readied?”
“Ready and waiting. Come and eat, Father.”
Father Timothy nods and follows Michael through the nave, down the aisle. He feels the weight of Christ’s gaze upon him - knowing that he did as his tormentor bid him but knowing as well that he did what he could to give the boy hope - and he prays, lips moving silently when Michael can’t see him, for forgiveness.
Christ forgive me, for I have done Satan’s work in exchange for my sister’s children remaining safe.
Christ forgive me, for I have done his work for many years.
Christ forgive me, for I have told one of Your children that he is damned, knowing well that he is not.
Forgive us all.
@mylifeisonthebookshelf @insaneinthepaingame @keeper-of-all-the-random-things @burtlederp @finder-of-rings @newandfiguringitout @astrobly @endless-whump @pretty-face-breaker @gonna-feel-that-tomorrow @doveotions @boxboysandotherwhump @oops-its-whump @cubeswhump @whump-tr0pes @downriver914 @whumptywhumpdump @whumpiary @orchidscript @nonsensical-whump @outofangband @what-a-whump @thefancydoughnut
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Don't Make Me Choose
Whumptober 2021: #5. Betrayal, #20. Lost & Found, #24. Flashback, #31. Hurt & Comfort
Fandom: Batman, Batfam, Dick Grayson, Jason Todd
Word Count: 2672
Note: Spoilers for Red Hood and the Outlaws
TW: mentions of suicide, mentions of attempted suicide
“Dick, please just listen to me!” you beg as your boyfriend, now possibly ex-boyfriend, throws his belongings into a duffle bag. He is weaving around the room, refusing to let you pin him down. You finally manage to put your hand on his arm, but he jerks it away so harshly you stumble back in shock. “Please, Dick. Don’t do this. Let me explain.”
“What is there to explain?” His voice is detached and cold. “You have seen all the horrible things he has done, and you still choose him over us. Over me. I think that says everything right there.” He slams the dresser drawer closed and heads to the door.
You know he is right. No matter how many times Jason had crossed the line before, you had always stood by your twin brother. But this, this was a new low even for him. It was bad enough he tried to break Bruce’s no killing policy again, however shooting the Penguin point blank on national television was a whole other level. And though Cobblepot was still clinging to life (for the moment), Bruce had decided enough was enough. Watching the Batsuit feed of your adopted father beating the living shit out of your twin was almost more than you could bear. If Roy hadn’t shown up at the last minute and whisked Jason away, you honestly weren’t sure what would have happened.
You had been furious at Bruce when he arrived back at the cave. And you had made sure he knew as much in no uncertain terms. When Bruce tried to push you on the issue, you had drawn your own line in the sand. “Don’t make me choose because I'll pick him every damn time.”
You knew it was a dangerous statement to make, especially in the state Bruce was in. But Jason had raised you for years before Bruce had found you two trying to steal one of the Batmobile’s tires. Even before your mom had overdosed or your dad had gone to prison, Jason had taken care of you. He was the only family who had never willingly abandoned you, and you weren’t going to abandon him. Especially when he needed you most.
But then Dick was there. You hadn’t even noticed him standing in the corner when you made your declaration, however he had definitely heard it. He had moved in front of you to stare you dead in the eye. And with a face full of pain and betrayal, he had whispered, “You’ll pick him every time…..Even over me?”
You wished you could have told him what he wanted to hear. Say it and hope you never had to make that choice in the future. But you loved Dick too much to lie to him. So instead, you returned his gaze and tearfully replied, “I’m sorry. But even over you.”
You had watched as Dick’s jaw tightened and he curtly nodded before storming out of the Batcave, hurling a chair across the room as he went. You flinched but didn’t look back or chase after him. Instead, you had chosen to remain and finish your fight with Bruce. By the time you had made it back to your shared apartment, Dick had packed most of his belongings. Which was why he was now heading for the door.
You know if he leaves, there is a chance you’ll never get him back. You throw yourself in front of him, blocking the exit. He rolls his eyes and heads for the window instead. Panic surges through you as you struggle to find anyway to convince him to stay.
“I love you, Dick. I love you so much. Please don’t leave.”
Without turning around, he says, “I love you too. That’s why this hurts so much.” He opens the window and starts climbing out onto the fire escape.
“Dick, I lost Jason once and it nearly killed me. I can’t lose my brother again. I won’t survive that.”
He hesitates for a second, straddling the windowsill. “I know it was tough, it was tough on all of us, but you were strong enough to pull through then, and if you had to, you could do it now.”
“But I wasn’t! If you hadn’t found me that night, I wouldn’t be here right now.” The words unconsciously slip out your lips, barely more than a breath. For the first time since you both got home, Dick looks at your face. Confused, he watches as you slide down the door and curl into yourself. Your face is buried in your knees, but he can still hear as sobs tear through your body. As mad at you as he was, he climbs back through the window and kneels in front of you.
“What are you talking about? What night?”
“You know what night. The night on the roof. After Jason….”
Suddenly, Dick remembers the night you are referring to. It was about a month after Jason’s death. Bruce and you had just gotten into another heating argument about killing the Joker. Things had escalated quickly, and the two of you had stormed off after exchanging quite a few words you both would regret later. Dick waited about an hour to give you time to cool down before he began searching for you. He was just about to give up when he spotted you. He mentally kicked himself for not checking here sooner as he landed on top of the building next to the gargoyle. He remembered how Jason had often referred to the stone beast as his best friend outside of the manor so of course this is where you would be right now.
You didn’t even glance up as he sat down, you just took a big swig from the bottle of vodka in your hand. You looked like a complete mess. Windblown hair sticking out in all directions, tears creating streaks down your face through your makeup, legs tangling over the edge of the building, body swaying slightly. Dick sighed, removing his domino mask. “Don’t you think 15 is a little young to be drinking that?”
You ignored his comment. “Did Bruce send you?”
“No, I was worried and wanted to make sure you were okay.”
“I don’t even know what okay is anymore.” You took another, longer gulp from the now almost empty bottle.
He tried again, “Listen, I miss him too. I know our relationships with Jason were different, but I still thought of him as my brother.”
“But he wasn’t. He was mine. And now, I’m alone. Again.” Your words were slightly slurred, and your voice was wobbly as you held back tears. “Did you know he asked me to go with him? He said he needed my help. I told him no. If I had been there…. If I had gone with him…” A strangled sob cuts off the rest of your words. Dick puts his arm around your shoulder and pulls you into him.
“Shhh…. It’s okay…It’s not your fault.”
“Yes, it is! Everything he did, his entire life, was to protect me or help me. Then the one time he asks me for help, I refuse.” You sobbed harder.
“Look at me. Hey! Look at me.” Dick lifted your chin so you are staring in each other’s eyes. “There was nothing you could have done. If you had gone with him, the Joker would have just killed you too. There is nothing you could have done to stop it. And Jason would not want you to blame yourself like this. He loved you so much and it would break his heart to see you falling apart over him. And you are right. Since the first day I met you two, I saw him do everything in his power to keep you safe and happy. That was his main goal every day. Don’t throw all of that away.”
Tears filled your eyes, and you nodded as you once again buried your head in Dick’s shoulder. He held you tight and tried to fight back his own tears. You were always such a fierce, joyful presence in his life and seeing how broken you had become hurt almost as much as losing Jason. He also carried his own guilt at not being there for his younger brother when he needed it most. But while Dick hadn’t been there for Jason, he silently swore he would always be there for you.
It was only when Dick felt you shiver against the wind that he realized you were in the simple t-shirt and jeans you had left the manor in. “Hey, let’s get you back. You know better that to scale tall buildings in civilian clothes. What if someone had seen you? How were you planning on explaining that?”
You were silent for a minute, then softly you whispered, “It wouldn’t have mattered.”
Dick wasn’t quite sure what you meant but he decided not to push it. He stood and when he reached out his hand to help you up, he noticed you drop something off the side of the building. It was too dark and the object fell too fast for Dick to get a good look at it. “Now you’re littering too? What kind of superhero are you?”
“Sorry. I – I just didn’t need it anymore.” You grabbed his hands and he pulled you to your feet. Giving you one more quick hug, Dick whispered, “It’s going to be alright” and the two of you headed home, together.
As Dick replays the night in his head, he shrugs. “I remember that night. But what does it have to do with any of this?”
“There was a reason I was in civilian clothes. There was a reason I had a bottle of vodka. There was a reason I was on top of one of the tallest buildings in Gotham, and not just because it was Jason’s favorite place.”
Dick feels his blood run cold. “What did you drop off the roof? What was it that you ‘didn’t need anymore’?”
You let out another howling sob and Dick knows the answer. He suddenly remembers Bruce complaining about his misplaced sleeping pills a few days later, but Dick hadn’t made the connection at the time. He looks at you trembling in front of him and realizes how close he had come to losing you. He scoops you into his arms just like he had all those years ago and you once again bury your head in his shoulder. Soothing your hair with his hand, Dick softly murmurs, “Oh baby, why didn’t you tell me?”
“I’m sorry! I’m so sorry! Bruce had been so angry and distant, and I just felt so alone, abandoned yet again. I was in so much pain and I missed Jay so much! I needed the pain to stop, and I thought it would be the only way.” You stare deeply into Dick’s face with your tear-soaked eyes. “But then you showed up. You reminded me that I still had someone who cared for me and doing… that… wasn’t what Jason would have wanted for me. You saved me that night, Dick. You stopped me from making the biggest mistake of my life.”
Dick pulls you closer to his chest. “No baby, you did that. I might have reminded you that you weren’t alone, but you made the decision to save yourself. You did that, not me. And you have nothing to be sorry about. You had just lost the most important person in the world to you, and you felt betrayed by the person who was supposed to be looking out for you. Of course, you were in a bad place. But just know, that whatever happens, whether we are a couple or not, I will always be there to remind you that you still have people who care about you.”
You rest your head on Dick’s shoulder and link your fingers with his. “I love you. I love you so damn much and I can’t stand the thought that tonight I almost screwed everything up and lost you. I’m sorry about what I said in the cave. I never meant for you to think I didn’t love you enough to choose you. It was never about who I loved more. It was about who needed me more. I guess, deep down, I know that just because I don’t want to live without you, it doesn’t mean we couldn’t if we had to. You still would have Tim, Damian, Bruce, Barbara, Wally, so on, that you could lean on. But Jason….
“I’m just trying to imagine where Jason’s head’s at right now. Bruce essentially exiled him from Gotham and by extent his family, the Outlaws were just trapped in some alternate dimension, he’s currently with Roy but Roy’s been talking about checking himself into rehab, and if that happens, I am the only person Jason will have. If I turn on him too, I am afraid of what he might do to himself or others.” You hang your head as tears stream down your face once again. This is the closest you have ever come to admitting out loud how scared you are of what your brother is capable of. You had always denied the possibility that he was too far gone to be saved, instead fighting fiercely to defend him at every turn.
“I already let him down once. I choose Bruce and his rules about killing over justice for Jason. Do you remember how long it took for him to trust me again? For him to even talk to me again? If I ever turn my back on him a second time…he won’t ever forgive me. And if that happens….I don’t know what he will do….” You trail off. Dick just nods at you reassuringly, so you sigh and continue. “We all saw the footage. I’ve never seen Bruce attack someone like that. It was absolutely brutal. And he clearly was sending a message when he ripped the bat symbol from Jason’s chest. There’s no coming back from this. So, no. I don’t want to pick sides, I don’t want to have to choose between my brother and my family, you, but Bruce might have just made that our new reality.”
You reach up and brush Dick’s hair out of his face. “And all I can think about now is how you pulled me back from the edge back then because you were there when I needed you most. If I abandon on Jason, who will be there to help pull him back?”
When you finally get everything off your chest, Dick sighs. “You’re right. I hate it, but you’re right. I wish Jason knew he could still count on me and that I still cared for him. But ever since he returned, our relationship has never been the same. So, at the moment, you might be the only other person besides Roy he feels he can lean on. And if you need to go to him, I’ll be right here waiting for you when you get back.”
You wrap your arms around him and squeeze tightly. “Thank you. Thank you for understanding. Thank you for always being there for me. Thank you for letting me do what I need to do. And please know, I’m not choosing Jason over you. He just needs me more at the moment.”
“I know. And I will try my best to never make you feel like you have to choose between us ever again. As long as you continue to choose to love me, that is the only choice I care about.
You lightly cup his cheek with your hand, a smile dancing across your face. You guide his head down until your lips meet. Your eyes flutter closed as a comforting, familiar warmth shivers down your spine. After a moment you pull away and gaze deep into his sparkling eyes. “Oh, Dick….. Loving you was never a choice. It was an inevitability.”
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