Title: Sore From Holding Your Breath Too Long
Pairing: Bruce/Jason (Batman/Robin)
Length: ~1800 words
Warnings: Jason's potty mouth, underage, UST
Notes: Thanks to Sasha, Anna, and Kat for looking this over.
Summary: Stakeouts are boring. Jason decides to make his own fun.
Only two hours into tonight’s stakeout and Jason’s already bored to fucking tears. Bruce, of course, is singularly focused with all the grim stillness in the world, like he soaked it all up and left none for Jason. It strikes Jason as a little funny, the contrast the two of them make. Bruce is motionless, an enormous brooding spectre, and then there’s Jason, fidgeting and twitching, twiddling his thumbs, scrunching his face around to try and reach an itch under his domino mask. Jason’s a kid of many talents. Sitting still isn’t one of them.
Slow nights like this always give Jason too much time to think. He always starts to wonder if Bruce is going at this the right way, if they’ve really got to give these scumbags the runaround like this. Sometimes Jason just wants to say “fuck it” and charge them. It’d be faster, at least. Times like these, Jason’s half convinced that Bruce only insists on this obsessive waiting because he hates facing anything head-on. It drives Jason up the wall.
Honestly, Bruce has been kinda pissing Jason off lately. Like right now. It’s not really the stakeout shit. It’s more the way Bruce hasn’t moved since they got here. The way he won’t fucking look at Jason, just looming there like he really has turned to stone. Jason doesn’t get it, how somebody could be that still and silent. It bothers him for some reason he can’t put a name to. Gets under his skin.
Growling, Jason chafes his hands roughly against his bare thighs. It’s cold enough that the tiny, stubbly hairs on his legs are standing on edge, his breath is coming out in steamy little puffs. Seeing his breath makes him want a cigarette, something to do with his hands and maybe cool his jets a little. And hey, he might even get a lecture out of it. Obnoxious, preachy Bruce is better than this infuriating “there is no Bruce, only Batman” bullshit he’s trying to play right now.
Jason can remember a time when the whereness of Bruce, his solid presence, the steady waves of heat that he puts out like a radiator, used to be comforting instead of infuriating. Now it’s like Bruce and Jason clash somehow, midair, without anybody even saying a word, with a recoil that sends Jason into spirals of disquiet. Jason doesn’t ever remember getting this worked up on patrol before. But Jason’s not only one who’s changed. Lately, Bruce has been getting weird and distant, and it’s freaking Jason out.
Not that Bruce was ever not weird and distant; it's not like he went from Chatty Cathy to this freakin' gargoyle overnight. But the brand of silence, this freaky tension, this is different. Or maybe it's Jason that's different. It's hard to tell, especially through this strained, wired restlessness consuming him right now.
Jason shifts his weight onto his heels, clenching and unclenching his fists. "Nice night," he says aimlessly.
Yeah. Of course. Jason exhales sharply, annoyed, and looks away. Mo-ther-fucker.
When Bruce gets like this, Jason just wants to--he doesn't even know. Flip out. Scream. Get in Bruce’s face. Make him to pay attention. Force him to look at Jason for two goddamn seconds.
Frustrated, Jason smacks his palms down hard on his legs and shoves himself up from the ledge. He stalks, agitated, back and forth on the rooftop. Swings his arms in loose circles to stretch his shoulders. Shadowboxes just a little to burn off the racing restlessness in his veins, imagining the crunch of cartilage under his knuckles. Doesn’t help too much, though, because it’s like the longer Bruce stays still, the more agitated Jason gets, and through Jason’s whole routine, Bruce doesn’t fucking twitch. Somehow Bruce stays absorbed staring at the great big nothing with his dinky little Bat-noculars, like he could wait forever for something to happen.
Jesus Christ, Jason screams in his head. Aren’t you supposed to be able to sense it when people stare at you?! Because if that’s true, either Bruce's ESP is about as well-tuned as a Sunday school choir, or he's willfully ignoring Jason glaring a hole through his head.
Jason wouldn’t be surprised either way.
He rolls his shoulders again, left, then right, then both at the same time. Calm down, you fucker, he thinks to himself irritably. If Bruce doesn’t care, Bruce doesn’t care. No skin off Jason’s nose. He can find some other way to entertain himself. Who needs Bruce, anyway.
"Hey, Bruce, I'm gonna go patrol somewhere else for a while." Since you obviously don't need me here.
Bruce makes a noncommittal noise.
For a full minute, Jason stares, incredulous, at the back of Bruce's head. Because really? Really? Where the hell is Bruce's protective streak when Jason actually wants to provoke a reaction? Because Bruce is still just sitting there. He hasn't fucking moved an inch, hunching over the ledge like he plans to live and die there.
"Whatever," Jason mumbles, slumping against the stone wall.
Maybe it wouldn't piss Jason off so much if he couldn't remember a time when it was different. He crosses his arm and scowls, glowering at Bruce. There’s no figuring out what’s been going on in his head these past few weeks. Why Bruce doesn't even bother looking at Jason anymore, why he’s stopped ruffling Jason’s hair or touching his shoulder after long patrols. Jason doesn’t fucking get it. And it's not like he could ask; Bruce would just do that thing he does where he talks in circles and avoids you or makes up a bullshit excuse and runs away. Anything to avoid being straight with Jason for two minutes.
Jason groans aloud, dragging his gloved hands through his curls. Fuck Bruce. Fuck this fuckin' stakeout.
What Jason wouldn't give for a cigarette right now. If he thought he could get away with it, he'd start shoving some in his utility belt. Hell, Jason would try even though he knows he couldn’t swing it, but Alfred has been soaking and tossing Jason's soft packs. Jason's not sure why he gets to be Robin and put himself in active danger every night, but he's not allowed to have this one vice. Probably Alfie's doing what he tells Jason to do--"picking his battles." Jason's gotta figure out how to do that, sometime. He sighs, exhaustively, and scuffs his boots against the ground, kicking at the rocks there.
Thing is, when it's good, it's really fucking good. Bruce is--Jason doesn't even know what Bruce is. Frustrating. Difficult. Obnoxious. But he’s also this fucking amazing fighter, fucking amazing guy--you wouldn't know it, but he's got this dry sense of humor that fucking kills Jason every time Bruce loosens up enough to crack a joke. And he gave Jason Robin, and Robin--it's the best thing Jason's ever done. If nothing else, Jason’s in Bruce’s debt forever, for giving him that chance.
It’s just that something about Bruce clamming up like this, retreating into his pointless fucking shell, it turns Jason into a pathetic little puppydog, sitting up and begging and slobbering over headpats. But if Bruce would just--fucking--look at Jason, fucking acknowledge him, maybe Jason could give it a rest already with this exhausting neediness.
Jason leans his head against the wall and groans, long and low. He lets his head loll back and forth against the stone, mussing his hair. He wishes, not for the first time, that some of Bruce's ridiculous Bat-focus would rub off on him. Maybe then Jason wouldn't have to feel like this.
He groans again and turns away from Bruce. The chill of the wall feels good, cooling against his forehead; he leans against it, closing his eyes. He shifts, burying his face in the crook of his elbow. Forces himself to breathe. He still can't force his body to quit fidgeting, his leg jittering incessantly.
And then there’s a sudden presence behind him, and he hears--
"Robin. Settle down."
He can feel the words against the skin of his neck. Shivers rake down Jason's spine, hot-cold fingers that make every hair on his body stand on edge. He spins around and holy fuck, how does he always forget that Bruce moves like a fucking shadow, because he’s right in Jason’s space, looming bare inches away.
Jason's breath catches in his throat. Time stops winding as if the world's a broken clock, letting this moment drip slowly to a stand-still. His breath won't seem to come. He can hear his heartbeat in his ears. And Bruce, what the cowl shows of his face, is all Jason can fucking see.
Bruce's face, frozen, except his widening eyes. There's fear there, but it's impossible for Jason to comprehend, impossible to compute. He’s stuck on how close Bruce is. How Jason can feel Bruce's breath on his lips. He’s getting dizzy from their proximity, on the sound of his own heartbeat.
They’re breathing the same air.
When Bruce gasps, Jason can feel it. And then Bruce is pulling away, suddenly and sharply. The motion sends a rush of cold air between them.
Jason's breath comes flooding out of him in one heavy gust, like his body only just realized he was holding it. He can feel himself gaping at Bruce.
Bruce clears his throat. "Settle down," he says again, hoarse. He puts the white lenses up and swishes his cape.
Jason's brain is screaming do something, you goon!!! at himself, over and over, pounding in time with his still-galloping pulse. The waterfall of sparks under his skin, the pressure in his head, return full-force, keeping him hovering on edge.
And then there’s the moment where Jason can fucking see Bruce deciding to turn around, to go back to ignoring Jason, and an idea hits Jason upside the head. His face stretches into a goblin-like grin as Bruce steps forward, cape flaring out and up. Bruce twists on his heel and in that second, Jason darts forward and delivers a sharp, stinging smack to Bruce's ass.
Bruce actually stumbles. Jason lets out a whoop and a cackle, sprinting for the ledge. He leaps and dives, shooting his grapple, grinning like a fiend the whole time. This--the wind rushing through his hair, the stretch in his legs, the adrenaline finally put to good use--this is what he'd needed. What he'd been craving.
Way behind him, he can hear Bruce chuckle. Jason grins when he catches the sound of Bruce’s cape flaring as he prepares to take chase."Try and catch me, old man!" Jason shouts over his shoulder. Bruce's grin is almost audible, a stark change from the blank stone face of a half hour before. Jason lands on the roof, hard, and takes off.