Can't be hungover if you're never sober. It was an adage that held true for him for plenty of years, and Bastian was figuring it would still. No evidence to the contrary yet. It was easier to get by when he was at least buzzed enough to feel warm, a little twisty, his head swimming and unable to focus on any one thing in particular.
It was when that buzz started to fade that thoughts slid into place, heavy, landing at the forefront of his mind where he didn't want them. He didn't want to think about any of it, especially because they weren't only his thoughts anymore. His memories, which he already avoided as best he could, were all tangled up with Bruce’s — those sure as fuck weren't any better.
Everything was so dark and twisted. Hopeless, lonely. Relentless. All feelings he was familiar with but with Bruce’s memories it was so much, all at once. The intensity was overwhelming, and Bastian wanted it to stop.
The responsibility of it all was overwhelming, too. He hadn't asked for any of this, sure as fuck hadn't signed up to be a goddamn father figure to anyone but he was, he remembered all that too. A whole lifetime of memories, of taking them in one by one, caring for them, loving them, these kids that threw themselves into the good fight right beside him.
His whole life was full of him being thrown into situations and circumstances he hadn't asked for. But what was he supposed to do? His parents died, he inherited their work, completely unqualified and over his head. He became a shifter and had the mantle of Batman pushed into him, completely unqualified and over his head in every aspect — the fight, the family, the responsibility of it all.
Him and Bruce both trying to live up to what they thought their parents might be proud of, never quite managing to make it.
The house was empty. Not unusual, he was often alone, but this was due to Betty refusing to order him a delivery — food, and a restock for the bar. She'd ordered the food, told him she wasn't going to enable his bullshit, and left. After he'd told her she was fired. She'd laughed, rolled her eyes, and slammed the door on her way out.
The food was good, but he was down to the liquor decanted into fancy crystal bottles, unlabeled and unknown. He'd know at one point, he was sure, but he didn't care. He didn't care about any of it: him, his life, Bruce’s life, nothing. Knowing what he was drinking was low on the list of concerns. As long as it kept him numb, it was great. He was at least aware enough when his hand fell to a small bottle he didn’t remember tucking away amidst them.
Super Soldier serum. It was laughable to think about, especially to think about it being real, but what counted as real these days? It should have been as much of a question, but that was what came from living in San Francisco. He had a vigilante taking up space in his head and the fucking Batmobile in his garage — real was subjective.
He’d found the serum a bit ago, he couldn’t remember, time wasn’t easy to parse out. The point was: he’d found it, scoffed at it, put it aside somewhere equally forgettable, and now here it was. He rolled the small bottle across his palm, staring at the liquid as it sloshed around inside.
Why not? He was painfully aware of his weakness, his mortality, how waking up after a week of Bruce being in control often left him debilitated. This could help, might make him better than he was. He could be strong, resilient, a world better than he was — that wouldn’t be so hard, he was aware. It could make him better, or maybe it would kill him. He wasn’t sure which was preferable.
He downed it, the liquid not smelling or tasting like much, nothing he could place. There wasn’t enough of it to linger on his tongue, give him a chance to figure it out. It wasn’t meant for that, anyway. Serum — it was probably medicinal, or chemicals, and besides, who gave a fuck what it tasted like. He felt something like a shudder run through him, then the sensation of being fully awake, alert, sober.
Becoming dead sober was the opposite of what he'd wanted or expected.
His head was pounding, not in a hangover way but in an overloaded kind of way. Like everything he'd been avoiding and pushing away was vying for priority, and he had no desire to deal with any of it. He didn't want to think about it, he didn't want to think. It was all too loud, too insistent, it needed to stop. Like his senses were working overtime and he couldn’t do anything to shut them down, or even pull them back to a normal level.
Nothing reversed it back. His bar became actually empty as he tried to get back to where he'd been, drunk and happy to be there. Well, happier than if he wasn't drunk, and now he wasn't and he had definitive proof that was true. The liquor did nothing, literally nothing, and he settled for chucking the small bottle from the serum at the wall and letting it shatter.
A shard of glass came back at him, embedding in his arm and almost immediately glinting red with his blood. Bastian dug it out, the sharp edges cutting into his fingers and thumb as he managed to get hold, throw it aside. The brief flicker of pain was nothing compared to the wonder as he watched the lacerations in his skin close in on themselves, nothing but the remnants of blood on his skin as proof they’d been there at all.
If he had to feel, at least he could feel the brief flicker of something like awe before it all turned in on him again.