The smell of coffee woke Dick up. He groaned and buried his face back in his pillow. Wait, that wasn’t his pillow. And this definitely wasn’t his bed. In fact, it didn’t seem like a bed at all - he could feel seams and gaps separating cushions, so a couch. He couldn’t figure out who’s couch, though.
“Waking up? It’s about time. Breakfast is almost ready,” a deep voice with a Gotham accent said.
Dick finally opened his eyes - bad idea because a headache he’d barely been aware of came blaring to the forefront. He scrubbed his face with his hands and sat up. Also a bad idea, he thought, as his stomach roiled in protest.
“Hungover?” the voice inquired. “I can’t say I’m surprised. Eggs, bacon and lots of toast will help.”
Dick waited until the tide of nausea ebbed before looking around for the owner of the voice. He was in a large, cozy room with an open plan kitchen, a table, and the couch he was occupying. Bookshelves lined one wall, and a large window took up most of another wall, overlooking a narrow Gotham street. Nothing looked familiar at all to Dick. A man stood over the stove, and when he noticed Dick looking at him, he gave a crooked, cocky smile.
“Um, hi,” Dick said awkwardly. What was the last thing that he remembered? Did he meet this guy at a bar? He stood up and walked over to the kitchen counter, trying to casually examine his host. The other man was a least a couple of inches taller than Dick, with massive shoulders and the body of either an athlete or serious gym rat. He had dark, almost black hair with a startling white streak in his bangs. Handsome face not at all diminished by a small scar cutting through one dark eyebrow. He was definitely Dick’s type, Dick had to admit. Dick wasn’t normally a one night stand kind of guy, but yesterday - well, one day a year all bets were off. Especially in Gotham.
Sexy guy handed Dick a cup of coffee and gestured to a sugar bowl and milk jug on the counter. “Thanks,” Dick said as he took an appreciative sip.
“I’m Jason,” the other man said. “We did introduce ourselves last night - early this morning, actually - but I’m not sure you remember.”
Dick sat on a barstool, frowning in concentration. A wisp of a recollection came back to him. “Was there something about a dog?”
Jason chuckled, and the sound went straight to Dick’s groin. “Yeah, you and my dog made friends last night.”
Dick looked around. “Where is your dog?”
Jason whistled and a large, white pit bull came bounding out of a partially open door, presumably Jason’s bedroom.
Dick dropped down to one knee. He definitely remembered the dog. “Hey boy. Who’s a good boy?” Dick crooned, giving the dog an enthusiastic ear rub. The dog wiggled in joy, stub of a tail wagging furiously. Dick laughed.
“What’s your dog’s name?” Dick asked.
“Excuse me?” By this point, Dick was fairly certain that he and Jason hadn’t had sex last night, so he was taken aback by what he thought Jason said.
Jason gave Dick a wicked grin and repeated, “Puck. Like in A Midsummer Night’s Dream .” A raised eyebrow and a slow, appraising look up and down Dick’s body made it quite clear that Jason knew what Dick had thought, and wasn’t entirely against the idea.
Dick hated the fact that he could feel himself blush. He stood up again, suddenly feeling awkward on the floor. Jason was attractive, but Dick still couldn’t remember exactly what happened after he made friends with the dog.
“Do you live here alone?” Dick asked, to fill the awkward silence. “It’s a nice place. Big.”
“Nah, I live here with my two moms. But they’re on vacation - anniversary trip.”
“That’s cool. So what happened last night?”
“Just a minute. The food’s almost ready, and I’ll tell you the whole story.”
Jason busied himself serving breakfast, which gave him an excuse to take his eyes off the handsome stranger in his apartment. With the ridiculous name. Dick could have been a model, with those high cheekbones and fine features. His skin tight tee-shirt and jeans certainly didn’t hide his lean but well-muscled body. The most striking feature was the bluest eyes Jason had ever seen, startling against his golden tan skin and black hair. Dick was about Jason’s age, maybe a couple of years older.
After finishing most of the food, Jason said, “There’s actually not a lot to tell. I left the windows open last night, since it was so hot. This is the fifth floor, and the ladder at the bottom of the fire escape has been missing for years. I figured it was safe enough.”
Dick soaked up some of the egg yolk with a piece of toast, watching Jason with those big blue eyes. “Go on.”
“Around 3 a.m., I woke up because I heard a weird noise. I investigated, only to find you petting my dog on the fire escape. Remember any of this?”
Dick nodded. “Sounds familiar.”
“So I shouted, ‘What the hell are you doing here?’ and you just looked at me. Finally you said some nonsense about how dogs are better than people and that you wished you had a dog.”
“Okay, I think I remember this,” Dick said, as vague impressions returned to him.
“So I said, ‘Get your own damn dog,’ and you burst into tears.”
“Oh God.” Dick dropped his face into his hands. It was worse than he’d thought.
“So then I felt kind of bad, and I realized how wrecked you were. I told you to come inside, and I’d get you a glass of water and call a cab. You were still crying, something about your parents.”
Jason noted the reaction but didn’t press for answers. Not yet, anyway. “I asked you your address, but your answer didn’t make much sense, because that’s an empty field. I gave up getting any real answers from you, said you could crash on the sofa, and ten minutes later you were snoring.”
“I’m so sorry, Jason,” Dick mumbled into his hands. “I don’t drink, usually. I guess I’m a bit of a lightweight.”
“No worries, man. Seemed like you had a pretty rough night.”
Dick couldn’t deny it, so shrugged.
“So how did you get up to my fire escape?” Jason asked curiously. “I still haven’t figured that out.”
“I climbed down.”
“Climbed down? Like from the roof?”
“The fuck you doing on the roof? It’s six stories high!” Jason demanded, giving Dick an alarmed, almost angry look.
“I wasn’t going to jump! I’m not suicidal. Yesterday sucked, and I went drinking, which was stupid, so I climbed up to the roof to clear my head. Then I saw your dog and he seemed nice. So I decided to say hi.”
Jason stared at Dick. “This is perfectly reasonable from your point of view?”
“Well, it’s not something that I would normally do,” Dick admitted. “I think I was more drunk than I realized. Like I said, I hardly ever drink.”
“So what happened yesterday? Fight with your parents? Ran away from home?” Jason was going for sympathetic - the guy was hot, even if he was a harmless kind of crazy - but it came out more bitter than he intended. Pretty boy probably had some ridiculous not-really-a-problem problem.
Dick shook his head, lips pressed together in one taut line.
“Fine, you don’t have to tell me,” Jason snapped, irritated. He stood to gather the dirty plates.
Dick held up a hand in wordless entreaty. Jason slowly sat back down.
“I think you should have an explanation, after taking care of me last night and making me breakfast.” Dick paused, as if steeling himself. “My parents died - were killed in front of me - eight years ago, as of yesterday.”
Jason could only look at Dick while his mind filled in the blanks. Headlines for articles he hadn’t read. Commercials he’d only half paid attention to. Last Flying Grayson Returns to Gotham for Farewell Tour. Anniversary of Circus Tragedy Marked by Memorial Show. Come See Richard Grayson Perform His World-Famous Quadruple Somersault. Haly’s Circus in Gotham For First Time in Eight Years.
“Dick? As in Richard? Richard Grayson?”
Dick nodded, still looking miserable.
“Shit, man. I’m sorry. No one should have to go through that.”
Jason was a Gotham native. Even amongst the other crimes and violence, the murder of the Graysons stuck out. Jason had been eleven at the time and clearly remembered the images of a boy, just two years older than him, crouched in the sawdust, a large man’s suit jacket dwarfing his small frame.
“Yeah, so I haven’t been back in Gotham much. Haly’s Circus avoided it if we could. But we made a lot of money from the memorial show, and we need it right now.”
Jason nodded. He could understand doing what you need to for cash.
“So last night, I went out after the performance, and got smashed. Not my best idea ever, but at least I have a good story to tell,” Dick continued, a small smile on his face.
Jason snorted. “Hey, I do too. The night a hot guy swung onto my fire escape.”
Dick met Jason’s eyes, and Jason felt a flash of excitement from the eye contact. “The night was not a complete loss for either of us, then.”
“That’s why you gave me a weird address. I thought it was fake, but it’s the field where the circus is.”
“Yeah. We stay on-site.”
“And how you got onto the fire escape.”
Dick gave Jason a hint of a cocky grin. “Acrobat.”
“So now I feel like a jerk,” Jason said dryly.
“You didn’t know. You actually were really nice to a drunk stranger who showed up on your fire escape at three in the morning, petting your dog.” Dick’s smile widened, showing Jason his perfect white teeth.
“Don’t forget crying, too.”
Dick pouted at Jason, and damn if it didn’t look attractive. “I was hoping you could forget that part. As a personal favor.”
“We’ll see, circus boy. I feel like I’ve already done you plenty of favors.”
Dick grinned. “What’s one or two more?”
“Two! What’s the other one?”
“Can you give me a ride back to the circus?”
Jason had to laugh at the audacity. Still, he couldn’t help but feel a bit charmed. “So that’s it? I drop you off and never see you again?”
“We’re in Gotham for another week. You do have a really cute dog. I think something can be arranged.”
“So you just want to see Puck again?” Jason asked in mock indignation.
Dick shrugged. “He has a really cute owner, too.”
Jason gave Dick a slow smile. “I can work with that.”
“Have you ever been to a circus?”
Jason shook his head.
“Give me a ride, and I’ll get you a ticket for tonight.”
“I only have a motorcycle.”
Dick’s smile widened. “Even better.”
“It’s a date.”
Jason followed Dick’s directions back to the changing area after the show, in a kaleidoscope of colors and shouts and motion. He dodged past clowns, the bareback trick riders with glitter and sequins everywhere, and a very very large strongman. Finally he found Dick emerging from the chaos, looking tired but content. Jason suppressed a flash of disappointment that Dick had already changed out of his tight costume. It had looked good on him, and Jason wouldn’t have minded seeing it up close.
Dick beamed. “Jay! I'm glad you came! Did you like the show?”
“It was amazing. You were amazing,” Jason answered honestly. Dick had performed with other acrobats, but it was clear that he was the star.
“Thanks!” Dick threaded his arm through Jason's arm familiarly and guided him through the throng. “We usually have a campfire after the show and hang out. Want to come?”
Jason chuckled. “It seems like you’re already leading me that way.”
“Well, kind of,” Dick grinned. He hadn't been sure if Jason would even come tonight, much less take him up on his offer to go backstage. Dick was surprised how at pleased he actually was to see Jason again.
“I'm up for anything,” Jason drawled.
Dick smirked at him. “I'm sure you are.”
By this time they'd made their way out the back of the tent, through the trailers and trucks, to a crackling fire. The warm glow was welcome against the cool night air, even in June.
Dick grabbed a couple of water bottles from a cooler and handed one to Jason, and led him to a couple of folding canvas camp chairs.
“So how is Puck?”
“I came all this way and you want to talk about my dog?”
Dick laughed. “I don't know much else about you. Besides the fact that you fry up some good bacon and eggs.”
“Not much to tell. I was on the streets for a while when my mom died then ended up in the foster system. Lucked out after a while when a cop and her girlfriend took me in. I'm headed to Gotham University at the end of the summer.”
Dick had squeezed Jason’s arm when he'd mentioned his mom’s death, but remained quiet until the end, when he broke out in a wide grin. “Me too!” he exclaimed, thrilled.
“What about the circus?”
“This is my final season. Some rich guy was in the audience that night and offered to pay for college. Paid for the funerals too. It took me a while to decide if I wanted to take him up on the offer, but finally Pop convinced me.” Dick gave a rueful laugh. “I'll probably be the oldest freshman there, but oh well. At least I've already made a friend.”
“Is that what you want me to be? Just a friend?”
Dick leaned in closer and licked his lips. “I don't know. Let's find out.”