Sometimes Bruce still visited his grave.
Wasn't that just the thing to do? Putting aside the fact that it was a strong contender for Bruce's creepiest habit, it was just...such a slap in the face. Of course, there was a chance he didn't know that Jason knew, but really. He was Batman. How likely was it that he hadn't noticed Jason following him out to the gravestone? He had to know. He had to want Jason to know.
Could he have said it more plainly? In his eyes, Jason was a changeling. He hadn't come back, not really. Bruce's son had died, and stayed dead, something else, something sinister taking his place. Maybe Bruce even thought they were mourning the dead Jason together. Because who would want to be what Jason was now? Who wouldn't go back?
What a load of bullshit. But then, Jason still went. He hated every moment of it, but he still hid in the shadows like Bruce had taught him and watched him stand in front of the grave, head bowed in grief. So maybe Jason regretted himself too, on some level. Or maybe he just wished Bruce would stop. Maybe he wished Bruce would take a different turn some day, and leave the grave behind, and call Jason or visit one of his safe houses. He hadn't given him much reason to, especially at first -- but he was trying, wasn't he? They were supposed to be on good terms now.
Just, well. Not good enough. How could the now slightly less unhinged killer he was ever measure up to the kid Bruce remembered? He was dead. He couldn't do anything wrong anymore, and all his past mistakes were seen through the bias of nostalgia. Jason, unfortunately, was very much alive, here and now. It was not surprising, exactly, but it still stung.
"What, no flowers?"
He didn't know what on earth possessed him to talk. Maybe he was just looking for a fight. Maybe he was sick and tired, of himself, of Bruce, of the visions that still haunted his sleep, a dark claustrophobic space and dirt everywhere, calling out for Bruce until his voice gave out. In reality, he'd dug his own way out, but in the dreams, he never escaped the grave. What did that say about him?
Bruce didn't seem surprised to see him there, but even if he was, it wouldn't show.
"I used to," he said. "Before we got you back. It always felt...inadequate."
Jason snorted. "Before, right. But you still come out here. Is it like, a fun evening stroll for you, or...?"
"Jason." Bruce's voice was a sharp reprimand. "Everything about this is horrifying to me."
Oh. Well, that was more honesty than he'd expected, and it hurt like a crowbar to the gut. He hadn't thought to brace himself for it. He'd thought Bruce would lie. But hell, what could he say to deny it? Who wouldn't resent the thing that took the place of their kid? Maybe Jason hadn't confronted him about it before because he dreaded to hear the truth spoken.
"To think that you were alive," Bruce went on, "lost, wandering in Gotham, and then with the League. And I didn't know. You were alive, and I was leaving flowers at your grave. How could I not have known?"
Jason couldn't speak. He couldn't believe what he was hearing, hope rising in his heart and lodging there, hanging on with tooth and claw. Bruce didn't regret that he'd come back, that he'd come back wrong -- only that he hadn't known sooner.
"The League," he managed. "They found me quickly. They -- they put the grave back together. So you wouldn't realize."
Bruce's face twisted in pain and grief. "I should have known. You could have recovered at home, I could have explained everything --"
"And then I wouldn't have turned into a murderous asshole?" Jason asked with a healthy dose of skepticism. "I don't know. Maybe. Look, I'll be real: I thought you were here because you would prefer I'd stayed dead, rather than come back the way I did, so you just being here to wallow in self-pity is definitely a step up, but..."
"You thought what?"
"It's still all about regret, you know? I know I'm not who you wanted me to be, hell, I'm not who I set out to become either, but I'm here. Can't that be enough?"
By the end of it he was pleading. He hadn't meant to. He had aimed for casual and dismissive, but he'd missed that by a long shot.
"Of course," Bruce said, voice thick with emotion. He crossed the distance between them and crushed Jason in a hug, warm and tight. Jason was taller than Bruce now, and as stocky, but despite everything it made him feel as safe as it had when he was twelve years old. "Of course it's enough, Jason. You are enough."
A little belated, Jason remembered to return the hug. Something inside him ached. Maybe he wasn't the kid he had been, but he could still have this. Maybe he hadn't come back the same, but he coul still be whole.