Fic: Another life
Summary: Some stories repeat themselves.
Spoilers for War Crimes.
There have been periods in Leslie's life best described as episodes of suspended animation. Time passes, but nothing much happens to change the routine. She wakes, she works, she sleeps. She dreams. When she wakes again, her skin is clammy and the nightmares make her joints freeze.
For six years, she lets the routine carry her like a river's current. Wake, work, sleep, dream.
And then, one day, in the mid-afternoon, the door-flap of her tent is pushed aside and Jason says "This is just so goddamn perfect I could vomit."
He's the man he never grew up enough to become, broad-shouldered and tall, his eyes still showing that hot blue flame of idealism which burns them all to ash sooner or later.
"Hi, Leslie," he says when she doesn't speak.
"Oh, God," she answers. He huffs a laugh.
"Yeah, that's what they all say." He crosses his arms over his chest. Button-up shirt, jeans, boots. The clothes are well made but travel worn. "So do I get a hug, or what?"
He feels solid and real and warm in her arms, and when he hugs her back the stiffening in his shoulders tells her how frail she's let herself become.
After he helps her give out the evening meal to the villagers --
"I have done this before, Doctor Thompkins."
"Nobody's called me that for years."
-- they sit and watch the little girl he's brought with him play with the local children, the laughing chase-games which require no common language.
She's very pretty, with tilted hazel eyes and ringlets of light brown hair.
"Honey Hayes. Her parents obviously decided she hadn't already had enough bad luck in her life," Jason says, taking another long breath through his cigarette. "If heaven had smokes, you wouldn't see half as many of us come back, I bet you anything."
"Why are you here?" Leslie asks, eyes still caught by the joyful play of the child. "Why did you bring her here?"
"Joker. He found out who her birth mother was." Grunting, frustrated, he grinds the leftover filter under his boot. "I gave Bruce hell so many times about not killing him when he had the chance, and my own pussying around puts a seven-year-old kid in the line of fire. The parents are dead. I got to her school before he did."
"She's taking it well. Astoundingly so."
"Apparently there's an uncle on the scene. Shows up every once in a while, teaches her how to do stuff. Judo, hacking, all kinds of things. She says she figured that she was important. Kids never really understand about death anyway, y'know?"
"It's Bruce? The uncle?" Leslie asks. She can't bring herself to ask Jason how Bruce is, not directly. She doesn't think she'll be able to cope with an answer in the negative.
"Or Tim. I don't know. I feel like I'm starring in a bad remake of Terminator 2 or something. Bad guy turns good, protects a kid trained in special ops."
"Sorry, I've never seen it."
"I haven't for ages. In another life, as it were." He snorts softly at his own lame joke. "In answer to your original question, we're here because it's enough of a headstart for me to line up the firepower I think I'll need to get rid of him once and for all. And because I wanted an excuse to see you, I guess."
"You know what I did."
"Yeah." Jason sighs, and they watch the little girl in silence for an endless minute. He clears his throat. "I don't still have all my scars. Some of them just... went. Gone when I came back, y'know? But there are four holes on my chest, from a .38, that're still there."
There were so many wounds. So many nights. It takes her a few seconds to dredge the specific memory up. "You were so young."
He blinks. "Was I?"
"That didn't feel young." He looks surprised. "But I guess it kind of is, huh?"
She feels her eyes well up. "Oh God, Jason, I'm sorry. So sorry."
"I didn't die that night, because of you. Because of your help. I'm not the girl you killed, and I can't give you absolution any more than you can give it to me. We can just... do our best with who we know ourselves to be, I guess." He puts a hand on her shoulder, lightly. Carefully, like he wants to keep her from bruising. "I never met Honey's real mom. We kept on missing each other, like that saying about ships in the night. But you knew her -"
"I killed her."
"You knew her," Jason repeats. "And you can tell Honey about her. Maybe one day you'll tell the kid what happened, too. Or you won't. Your call. Personally, I'm not planning on telling her about most of the stuff I've done for a good damn long while."
"But you will one day?"
"She's got two generations of mask in her blood, Leslie, and Bat-sponsored training. I wouldn't be doing her any favours by keeping her from fate."
Leslie takes in a deep breath, trying to hold back the sob of horror blooming in her throat. "That's why you brought her here. To show me that what I did didn't change a thing. It didn't save anybody."
Jason lights another cigarette, the click and spark of the lighter like a sharp punctuation in the muted quiet of the dimming light. The children have moved their game further away, Honey's fairer head still visible amongst them. "Way I see it, we're damned if we do or don't. Sometimes killing someone... or letting them die, if you want to get particular about it... seems like the only way to make things right. We're most likely wrong as hell to feel that way, but that's how it is."
"You've killed people."
"And I'll kill more, starting with the damned Joker. I almost hope he does track us here. There'd be something poetic in me offing him here. Poetic, or funny. Can't tell the difference, really."
"What do you want me to do?"
"Come with us. When this is finished, and we go back. I'll be a shitty parent by myself. Kid deserves a woman around, even if it's a hardass like you." He gives her a lopsided smile.
"Bruce told me not to go back. Ever."
"Yeah, and he keeps on saying that he's going to lock me up in Arkahm, yet here I am enjoying an African sunset. Funny, that."
"I don't know if I can do this, Jason."
"Only one way to find out."
Honey, running away from the other children, whooping at some game won, comes toward them. Leslie nods, slowly, glancing at Jason for a moment before looking at the girl again.
"All right," she says.