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i ask you how it feels to bend and never break

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Fear curls cold in Jason’s stomach. They aren’t going to reach him in time. They aren’t going to find Duke before he runs out of air. There isn’t enough time to find him and dig him out before he suffocates.

He only has one option left.

Jason clicks on his comm, clearing his throat roughly. At the sound of his voice, the rest of the family goes quiet.

“Duke. Do you have anything sharp?” He asks, and he knows that his voice is broken, that this is probably going to tell Bruce more about how he had come back than he had ever intended to share.

“Uh…” Duke says, and he can hear shuffling, presumably as the kid goes through his things. His voice is sharp with terror, and Jason’s heart aches. “Yeah. I have. I have a blade.”

“Okay. Good. That’s good. I only had a belt buckle,” He says, and the dirt from his memories chokes him, his hands aching in his gloves despite the fact that he regrew his nails years ago. Over the comms, he can hear Batman make a punched-out noise, a little distressed groan, and he can’t focus on that, not now. Not when it’s taking all of his willpower to shove down his terror and stop the green that’s beginning to take over his vision. “You’re going to take that, and you’re going to use it to break the lid, okay? Don’t do it over your torso, you won’t be able to get out, you’ll just be letting dirt in. You need to do it over your head.”

Duke lets out a little gasp, and Jason staggers on the rooftop, falls to his own knees.

“I know. I know, kid, this is terrifying and awful and you really, really wish that Dad was there. But you can do this. Take your blade and stab. Don’t talk back, now, you need all the air you can get.”

And then Jason can hear the thudding, the sounds of his little brother breaking through the lid, and the dirt that’s already flooding in to suffocate him.

“Make a hole big enough to pull yourself through. You can do this. Make the hole, and then start moving. You’ve got to dig, you need to get some leverage. Sit up first, and if you can still feel the coffin, use it to push yourself up. You’re fighting gravity, kid, you need everything you can get.”

There’s movement over Duke’s comm, and Jason hopes to God that his little brother is following instructions, that a second one of Bruce Wayne’s children will fight his way out of the ground’s cold embrace.

“Push, Duke. Keep going. Keep your eyes closed, and your mouth. I know your lungs are screaming by now, but don’t breathe. You can’t breathe right now. Keep digging.”

Jason’s spiraling, and he knows it. He’s hanging on by his fingertips, thinking about his little brother, knowing that if he loses himself to a flashback right now, Duke’s as good as dead. There’s a muffled noise over Duke’s comm, like he started to say something and remembered not to at the last second, and Jason can’t take it, he tears off his helmet, thankful that he went for an ear comm tonight. The Gotham night air is cool on his sweaty skin, but in his head, it’s raining, thunder roaring and lightning striking almost too close.

“You want to give up, but you can’t. You keep going, keep digging, you’re almost out, you have to be almost out, where’s your dad, please, please, Dad, Dick, Alfred, anyone, please help me, please,”

Jason’s babbling now, eyes wide and unseeing over the Gotham skyline, only vaguely aware of blue-striped fingers combing through his hair, someone cradling him and rocking back and forth. The comm’s removed from his ear, and if he could focus, he’d hear the tear-choked words of his older brother.

“He’s out, Jason, Duke’s okay, he made it out and Tim and Cass found him, they’re on their way back to the Cave. I’m here, Jason, I’m here now, I’ve got you, I’m so sorry that I didn’t know, I should have been there, I’m so sorry, little wing. You’re okay, little brother, you’re so strong, you did so well, Jason. You take a rest, and I’ll be here when you come back, okay? Me and Dad and Alfred, and everyone else, we’ll be here when you come back, Jason. You won’t be alone, not ever again, I promise.”

And their father lands on the rooftop behind them, mouth still vomit-sharp, and he takes large strides and falls to his knees and gathers his eldest sons to his lap, and he holds his boys as one cries and the other goes blank, and he chokes down his own emotions and tries not to think about everything he’s learned tonight.