He gets the call at five in the morning. It wakes him up from a nice dream, and he groans in frustration.
"Mmm, hello?" he grumbles, half-asleep, far too lazy to check the Caller ID.
"Jay, it's Dick. I have news."
Jay blinks, all thoughts of awesome dreams and ridiculous hours of the morning fading fast. News never means "You should have seen Damian kick ass today!" or "Tim ate an entire pack of doughnuts again!". News means someone's fucked up. And Jay never likes it when someone fucks up.
"What kind of news?" he hedges. He clenches the phone tighter, fingers brushing over the cracks caused by years of patrolling gone wrong. He's had this phone for as long as he's donned a mask and unnecessarily form-fitting spandex, but he's never once thought of replacing it. If he's not careful now, he may have to.
"Nobody's died or anything," Dick offers. It's not comforting. "It's just kind of awkward."
Jay braces himself. He and Dick have varying definitions of awkward. Dick's laid back, but Jay doesn't let things go. He has a painstakingly-crafted reputation to uphold.
"What kind of awkward?" Jay snaps.
"The bad kind of awkward." Dick's stalling. He doesn't want to spill, and with his big mouth, that's never a good sign.
"Well? Get on with it already, I have shit to do."
He hears Dick's intake of breath on the phone, and tries desperately to remember what meditation techniques Bruce taught him back when he was still wearing green, fish-scaled panties for a living.
"There's a rumour spreading in the Gotham Underground right now," Dick begins. He sounds tight, controlled, like he's trying to hold back nervous laughter. Jay flinches.
"They're saying Nightwing and the Red Hood are..." Dick trails off. It seems physically painful him for him to spit out the words, the ending of which Jay's guessing a thousand ways a minute.
He taps his fingers against the mattress in anticipation. Nightwing and the Red Hood are... what? Dead? The same person? Rivals? Allies? Best friends forever?
"Dating," Dick finishes.
Jay drops the phone.
Half an hour later, he's sitting at Dick's apartment table -- which is clearly on its last legs as it shakes and wobbles -- repeatedly switching between slamming his head down on the table, and making pained noises.
"I had a fucking reputation, Dick," he grits out. "Nobody crossed the Red Hood. Now what? I'm some goody-two-shoes boyscout's bitch."
Dick looks at him, disappointed. "Don't be ridiculous. The goons will still be pissing their pants at the sight of you, even if they think you and I are together. Plus, I was thinking we could use this to our advantage."
"How?" Jay groans, long, drawn out, and melodramatic.
"Well, if they were scared of us before, now they'll be positively fucking terrified. If you fuck with one of us, you fuck with the other," Dick says, reassuring. "It's like an alliance, but way more watertight."
Jay raises an eyebrow and looks up at Dick from where he's had his face pillowed on the table in embarrassment, considering.
"Deal. But if this backfires on me, Dick..."
"Yes, yes. Trust me, this will work."
He's on patrol, making sure nothing's going on in any of his neighbourhoods, when Nightwing lands next to him, silent and graceful. He nods.
"Hood," Dick greets, fond. Jay's surprised for a moment by the warmth in his voice, and then remembers. Dick's always been hesitant to show him any affection, but now he has an excuse. Jay's somehow really, really okay with that.
"Wing," he replies, warm in his own way, and wants to hit himself when he realises he's not pretending.
He's made a terrible, terrible decision. One that he knows he's not going to retract.
Dick comes to stand next to him, leaning ever-so-slightly against his shoulder. Jay can feel his eyes scanning over the miles and miles of shining city from their vantage point. He feels momentarily like a watchful guardian, and not a menace. Dick brings that out in him.
"Any activity?" the older man asks. His voice is all business, but he's relaxed in a way Jay's only seen with family. He clamps down on the sense of pride and happiness that brings him. Now is absolutely not the correct fucking time to get sappy.
"Nothing serious. Just a few stupid kids thinking they can buy drugs from my dealers."
Dick sighs. "It's peaceful, isn't it? You wouldn't think it could be, not in this city."
"She's full of surprises," Jay says, and means it. He, by all rights, shouldn't love this city; he does anyway. That seems to be happening to him a lot recently.
"Gotham may be a shithole," Jay continues, "but she's our shithole."
Dick laughs, warm and happy and real. It's rare, hearing Dick laugh around him. He feels almost honoured, but that would be ridiculous.
"Yes, she is," Dick agrees, clapping Jay on the shoulder.
He gestures for Jay to follow, and they're off into the night.
They're resting on a nondescript building's roof a few nights later, when they spot a group of goons a few blocks away.
Jay raises an eyebrow, not that Dick can see behind the helmet, and puts away the cigarette he was just about to light. A shame, really, not that he was hoping to relax.
Using some of Bruce's handy gadgets, he can perfectly pick up the muffled conversation the thugs are having below. He assumes Dick can too, from the way he has to hide a smirk.
"D'ya hear the rumours yet?" one whispers conspiratorially. Jay can just imagine him leaning in to the group, as if sharing a secret, and not a piece of news equivalent to a Facebook status. Hah. It's complicated.
"No, what rumours?"
"About Nightwing and the Red Hood?" another questions.
"Yeah, those ones," says the first goon. "'Parently, they're goin' steady, if ya know what I mean."
"Wha? For real?"
"Knew they were a bunch a' pansies, all o' them," an angry voice chimes in.
The rest of the group shushes him immediately.
"Shut the fuck up, Mikey, unless you wanna get yer ass torn to pieces."
"If the Red Hood hears you, he'll have you for a light fuckin' snack, asshole. Don't get cocky," snaps the group leader. There's a hint of fear in his voice.
Jay rolls his eyes as he sees Dick raise a hand for a fistbump.
"Told you it'd work," Dick says, smug. That jerk.
"Yeah, yeah. Live it up, Circus Boy."
The two of them are enjoying a Starbucks, when their phones both ring at the same time. It's a text from Damian.
If either of you two fools mess up your relationship, I will not be pleased. Oh, and Father sends his regards and asks that you two use protection. I think my mind is broken.
There's another text a few seconds later.
Drake says it's "about damn time."
So, the Batfamily thinks they're really dating. Jay's surprised that they're not surprised.
Dick bursts out laughing, startling the people at the table across from them. They both laugh until there are tears in their eyes. Neither one of them bothers to correct the family's mistaken assumption.
It's been a few months, and they still haven't come clean. Just about everyone in Gotham thinks he and Dick are together, and Jay is strangely fine in keeping it that way.
Dick's sitting next to him on the couch, looking thoughtful.
"I think we need to up the ante," Dick says.
Jay shoots him a confused look and goes back to watching Cartoon Network. "Hmmm?" he mumbles.
"PDA. We need more PDA. Gratuitous PDA. The Tim and Kon kind of gratuitous PDA."
"How's that going to work?" Jay snorts. "You gonna try to get your mack on with my helmet?"
He's pretending that doesn't turn him on. Whatever Dick doesn't know can't harm him.
"We haven't even held hands, Jay," Dick admonishes. "They probably think we're fucking each other's brains out by now."
He fights down a blush, which is horrible, because he thought he stopped blushing at fifteen when Bruce tried to give him the birds and the bees talk. He's blushed out his lifetime supply. That's it. The pinnacle of embarrassment. He's done.
"I've held your hand," Jay says. "We hold hands all the damn time!"
"Grabbing on for dear life as we try not to drop each other off buildings doesn't count," Dick says. "Nor does you dragging me to the video game store when you were younger. Or the time Tim glued our hands together 'by accident' because 'Kon dared him to'."
"We've held hands other times," Jay defends. "Like..." he trails off. "Fuck."
Dick looks satisfied at winning that argument.
"You know what? Fine! You want to hold hands? I'll show you holding hands, asshole."
He grabs Dick's hand and laces their fingers together. The satisfied look doesn't go away.
"This is ridiculous," Jay says, after a while.
Dick just smirks.
"You crafty fucker," he gasps. "You did this on purpose, didn't you?"
"Maybe," admits Dick. Jay doesn't let go of his hand, though.
Jay takes Dick up on the PDA suggestion. They're all over each other now, pretty much making all of their enemies too uncomfortable to fight them. Jay thinks it's fucking hilarious. The look on Slade fucking Wilson's face was priceless. Harley calling them adorable was still worth it. Even Damian texts them at regular intervals, always coming up with new jokes ("Do you call each other by pet names?" "I'd not be surprised if Jason insisted on cooking." "Would you choose Grayson-Todd or Todd-Grayson?" "Jason Grayson rhymes, you know!").
"We were on the Gotham Gazette today," Dick says. "They named us a victory for gay rights, and called the Gotham Underground 'surprisingly accepting'."
Jay chokes on his late night hot chocolate (which he firmly denies he ever drinks).
"Look at us, Dickie. The champions of forward thinking, right here."
"I don't know about you, but I'm kinda proud," Dick replies.
"Yeah. So am I."
One day, as they're practically entwined on the bed, watching shitty TV, Jay comes to a realisation.
"We're not faking this anymore, are we?" he asks.
"Took you long enough," Dick snarks.
Jay kicks him in the shin. Then he kisses him.
Damian texts them later.
I sincerely regret installing cameras in your room. I need brain bleach. Have you decided yet, by the way? I still think you should go for Jason Grayson.