Characters: Batman (Bruce Wayne), unnamed Robin of my own invention
Warnings: Mental illness, self-harm; minor spoiler for Batman: RIP
Word Count: 927
Summary: In the end, Bruce is the last one remaining. But time and loss have taken their toll, and there's not much of him left, either.
Notes: The title is a line from the song "Hurt", by which this fic is very heavily inspired. I was listening to it this morning (not the NIN original, the heart-rending and far superior Johnny Cash cover... sorry, Trent) and the bunny punched me in the face until I wrote it. Plot!Batman will not be denied I guess. Listen to the song; be depressed, and LOVE IT.
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It was the Joker who said it first. Perversely, the clown always did know him best. "Batsy and cockroaches," he said. It was a joke, or a premonition, or a curse.
I am doing an autopsy–I have to do my own autopsies now. I am working and everything feels false. Who am I? Am I actually here? Am I alive? I press down with the scalpel and pull, and the skin splits, pain blossoming with the blood. The pain is real. I can't be sure about the rest. But the body on the slab doesn't bleed when I cut it, and I do. That's something. That means something. That means–
I'm alive. I remember. It's everyone else that is dead.
I remember why I try so hard not to remember.
The syringe is in my hand and the needle is in my skin. My hand shakes and I tear the vein and it's messy. It doesn't matter. Killing the hurt matters. This helps but it's never enough. I remember everything.
"Batman!" The boy runs to him, takes the syringe. He will disinfect it later, with the scalpel. He bandages with brisk efficiency the small tear on the wrist, the long slice on the back of the forearm. He frowns as he works. He knows suicide is not on the agenda, knows Bruce can't, won't, would never ever. But the self-harm upsets him. He loves the old man, loved the idea of him years before he met him. He loves the memory of who he used to be, before; loves that even gray-haired and lost in pain he's still strong, still the best person he knows, has ever known. Bruce can still fight, can't stop fighting, and when he's fighting he's almost whole.
...What have I become? I wasn't always like I am, whatever I am now. The boy knows it. His eyes are sad. I can see the want reflected in them. He wants to fix me. Bless the child, he means well. My little bird, my sweet Robin, my soldier. My closest friend, always. Everyone else has left me, gone away, but him. He will leave me too, someday. Everyone falls away in the end.
Maybe, maybe he will outlast me. It won't do him any good. I have nothing to give him. They called me the Prince of Gotham when... a long time ago. Gotham City is dirt and bones. The world is dust. There are no princes anymore. I have nothing to give him.
But he will not outlast me. I will fail him, someday. Someday, he will end in pain. It will be my fault. There is no one else left to blame.
Why do I do it? Why keep struggling? Suffering is only a sacrifice if there's some hope for redemption. But the city is empty. All that's left is ghosts and stragglers, fools who don't know enough to let go. Like me. The Dark Knight. The Prince of Dirt. My throne is blackened concrete and twisted rebar. I sit on my throne above the city and I lie to myself, tell myself there's enough left of Gotham to... to....
...No. I've lost it. It's gone. There are holes in the wall, cracks in the floor. The bits and the pieces fall in, fall through, disappear. Broken thoughts. I can't fix them. Time passes and I feel less and less, and I want that, but the mind goes too.
This has happened before, I know it has. The mind went, but I got it back. Remember? Do you remember, Tim? The Batman of Zur-En-Arrh....
...No. I'm sorry. Not Tim. You're someone else. Tim is gone. They all are. Clark fought to the last, but he's gone too. I am the only one still here.
Sometimes Bruce forgets, gets confused. He calls the boy Tim, or Dick, or Jason. Sometimes even Damian. The boy doesn't mind. He wears the red and green and gold, and the cloth is heavy with the past. If he looks in the mirror and squints through his lashes he can see the other Robins standing behind him, and it makes him feel stronger. So he doesn't mind. Now and again Bruce calls for Alfred, but that's different. He's never looking at the boy when he does that. Alfred is a ghost that Bruce can't quite see....
Sometimes Bruce has flashes of brilliant clarity. His mind is sharp, then, sharper than anyone's, scary sharp, dangerous sharp. So sharp the boy is almost frightened. He is in awe at these times. And he is proud. Proud to be Robin; proud to assist Batman, the greatest man alive, the last great hero. Proud knowing that life in Gotham City is just a little bit better than everywhere else, because Batman is protecting it. In those moments Bruce seems invincible, immortal, indestructible. Those moments are worth all the rest of it.
Only me. And you, my Robin, until you go like the others. And you will, I'll fail you and you'll be gone. And it would be better that way, better than to leave you here alone in this broken city, this broken world. Better that it's just me. Broken me. Cracks and ghosts and shadows, alone until the end.
...Oh, God, I want to go back! I want to go back. If I could do it again, I know I could find a way. I could save them all. Keep them. Keep myself. I know I could.
I know I could. I could... I could....
...No. I've lost it. It's gone.