NOTES: So I was talking with @HubCityQuestion about Jason Todd’s resurrection and Lazarus Pit lore in the DCU in a PM a little while ago, and a couple of the things he pointed out/suggested got me thinking about Lost Days again. I always really liked that miniseries, and there’s a lot of very good moments in Lost Days #1, but they’re also dependent on a resurrection explanation that is, frankly, terrible. I spent a few days chewing over how to reconcile them (particularly given HCQ’s excellent suggestion that DC could preserve Jason’s “digging his way out of a coffin” scene by having Jason + the coffin be placed wholesale into the Lazarus Pit, as well as all of how Arrow handles Lazarus Pits), and this is what came out. Enjoy!
Content notes: this entire story is hinged upon rehabilitation after trauma + severe brain injuries, so please be advised that there’s going to be a lot of hospital stuff, etc.
BRIGHT AND BITTER AND CLEAN
The first thing he feels when he can feel again is burning.
His skin is on fire, and he doesn’t know why.
No. He doesn’t know why it’s different. He was just here, choking on blood, skin raw and blistered, vision dark, ears ringing. Before he…
Before he what? Blacked out? No, that’s wrong.
He doesn’t understand it. He doesn’t understand this. He’d been sure he died. Hadn’t he? His mind fills itself with the sound of laughter, with broken visions of agony and laughter and the Joker and Batman, and the more he tries to focus on it, the more it slips away into a blur of pain and steel.
But he knows something is different. Something has changed. He doesn’t know how he knows, but he does, and when he gasps air into somehow functioning lungs, he nearly chokes on the smell. Death. Decay. Rot.
He realizes with sudden terror that wherever he is, he’s trapped. Trapped in a prison of silk and wood, rapidly filling with a strange, burning liquid.
He’s drowning. He’s drowning. He’s going to drown. So why is it that instead of choking, when he inhales the acid, when fire fills his lungs and courses through his veins, he doesn’t die? How is it that his broken body feels stronger even as the pain overwhelms him, that the bones of his hand knit back together as he shatters them again and again against the lid of the coffin?
What is happening to him?
The wood finally splinters under his fingers, and the lid breaks open, turning him out into a pool of water tinted a bright, poisonous green. He hears strange sounds, voices, distorted beyond understanding through the depths.
He breaks the surface with a gasp, and the sound of screaming echoes back to him as though from a distance.
There’s noise around him. Voices. But he can’t understand it. He can’t understand any of this.
He needs to get out. He needs to – he needs to escape. But there are people around him, hands clawing at his arms.
No. No. No. He won’t let this happen. He won’t let them grab him, bring him back to the Joker. He won’t let it happen again! He lashes out blindly, and is rewarded when he feels soft flesh give way under his fingers. He lashes out again and again, with fists and nails somehow intact. All he can see is blood. All he can taste is blood. All he can feel is rage. At what has been done to him, at what they’re trying to do to him. At everything and anything, beyond words, beyond thoughts. So he hits them, and hits them, and hits them, clawing and choking and smashing, until a pair of arms seizes him from behind and pulls him away.
No! No no no no no! He struggles, jerking his head back, trying to escape from the hold, escape before they can hurt him again. But he can’t remember how, and nothing is working right, and he howls in desperation.
He hears sounds on his ears, like the voices from before, but this time they resolve themselves into words.
“… calm down. Jason. Stop. Calm down. You’re safe. It’s safe.”
He still doesn’t know what they mean.
But the arms won’t let him go. So he struggles, and he screams, and screams, and screams, until his throat is raw and cracked, and something hits the side of his head and everything goes dark.
There’s something in his arm.
He thinks the thought again and again reflexively, ideas running like water through his senses. Not words, but the shadow of them, shapes and echoes that brush at the edge of his mind but vanish at the first touch of light.
Needle. The idea bursts into his thoughts. What is it? A shape. A word. A taste? No, a feeling on his tongue. A sound. Two sounds. Nee-dull. He searches his brain for the meaning, but everything slides away from him, and the effort exhausts him. He lets it go, and instead just lies there, feeling the word in his mind and the dull sense of something in his arm.
He can’t move. He’s not sure why. He’s not sure how. His mind is a jagged pile of broken feelings and concepts, and he lies among them without even the thoughts to make sense of his experience.
Needle. He tries to move his lips, though he’s not sure why. His arm twitches. He can’t move it. Something stops him. Not him. He tries to focus on it, to make sense of the sensation. Something on his wrist… rough. Pressing down.
Tied down. More words. Less sense.
He remembers how to open his eyes. He does so, and manages to turn his head to look at his wrist. He tries to sit up again, and he manages to turn to the side and vomit.
He’s not sure how long he spends alone in the bed. (He’s remembered that word, too.) Time makes no sense. He’s given up on trying to move, and instead focuses on trying to think. He’s frustrated by the tangled mess of sensations and thoughts swarming through his mind, tired of not being able to string two thoughts together.
It’s not going well. Every time he manages to start to get a thought together, he’s interrupted by something else. A new feeling, a new memory, a new piece to try to fit together into the puzzle that is him.
Things come to him in flashes.
The feeling of pain. The taste of honey. The idea of feathers. The memory of sun on his face. The smell of car exhaust. Someone saying ’You’re a scrappy one, I’ll give you that,’ with no further context.
The words crowbar and betrayal, again and again and again.
The feeling of anger, at once overwhelming and distant.
Names without meaning. Robin. Batman. Bruce.
He needs to find Bruce. Maybe then everything will make sense again.
A woman enters the room.