Jason doesn't ask for much out of life. Or maybe it's that he doesn't expect much from it, and Christ, Dick, he knows he's not a ray of sunshine, he's just a fucking realist. Maybe he is the pessimist Dick sometimes claims he is, but aside from a few lucky breaks in life, Jason hasn't had reason to expect much. That doesn't stop him from asking that Dick come home safe at night, however, because Dick's an idiot and Gotham's a heartless bitch who chews people like Dick up and asks for more when she's done.
"Jason! I'm home!"
Jason knows that tone of voice, that honestly horrifying Pollyanna-level of cheer. It never ends well for him because things like that godawful disco costume last Halloween that had feathers and things that were definitely wings, no pretending they weren't, Dick. Other things like Jason agreeing to Sunday brunches with Dick's adoptive father happen. Terrible, awful things that cause lasting trauma.
Bruce may act harmless, but the bastard's fucking smart and there's a reason Wayne Enterprises is as successful as it is, and only part of that is down to Lucius Fox.
"Whatever it is, I want no part of it!" The kitchen sink is leaking again, and Jason's stubborn enough to want to fix it himself instead of calling in a professional plumber to do the job. It's part stubbornness, part how the hell do they expect to make this month's rent if they shell out money every time something in their crappy apartment breaks down?
"Come on, Jason, don't be a sourpuss."
Jason stares at the underside of their kitchen sink. Wonders why him, and how the hell Dick gets away with the things he does all the damn time. Is it because he's pretty? It has to be, there's no other explanation.
"Sourpuss, Dick? Really?" Jason slides out from under the counter, sits up - and stares. "What the fuck is that?"
Dick's smile widens, making him look more than a little demented "It's a dog!" Like he's five.
"Yeah, no kidding." Jason's not that stupid, try another. "I know it's a dog, Disco-wing, what I meant to ask is what the fuck is it doing here?"
Dick looks down at the dog hiding behind his legs. It reaches Dick's knees, on the scrawny side with dark fur that's just this side of black. Big blue eyes and what Jason refuses to think of as a sweet face and definitely wary. Skittish, and Jason being a bastard probably isn't helping, but fucking really. What the hell?
No. No pets. They'd be terrible pet owners. Dick's at work half the time, protecting and serving, and Jason's down at the bike shop, fixing beautiful machines for people who shouldn't be allowed anywhere near a motorcycle. The damn mutt would die from boredom or loneliness, one of the two, if they don't accidentally manage to kill it with food poisoning before that. (Jason knows Dick would be the kind of person to feed it under the table.)
"His family abandoned him." Dick crouches down and gives the mutt a hug, and from the way it reacts, it probably hasn't gotten many of them before. Probably none, which. Jason is not going to feel sorry for a damn dog, that's just ridiculous. That's Dick levels of ridiculous.
"Jay." Dick looks at Jason through the fringe of his hair, and there's just no way that's regulation length, no matter what Dick tells him. "He's a sweetheart, just look at him."
That's kind of the problem right there though. Jason's looking, and the stupid dog is pathetically adorable. Big sad puppy dog eyes, ears that fold over, and did Jason mention scrawny? As in almost unhealthily so? And now Dick's talking to it. Telling it what a good boy it is, and how sweet it is and how much Jason's going to love it and this is Jason's life now, isn't it. Dick's ridiculous everything and bringing home abandoned dogs like he's a kid who found a stray in an old lot somewhere.
"He followed me home mom, can we keep him?" And there's Dick's devious little smile, the one he uses when he's being a jerk and knows it, when he's trying to get Jason to agree to things Jason knows he's going to regret.
"Dick - "
"Gannon can't take him."
Not that Dick tried that hard to get him to, Jason's betting. Dick looks a little too smitten with the stupid dog for that.
"We don't have room for a dog, Dick." Cold reason. Not that that ever really works on Dick. Their apartment is tiny, barely enough room for them. Better than the place above the bike shop he lived in before this one, before Dick happened to his life, but certainly not enough room for them and the mutt.
"We were thinking of moving anyway."
But not for a while, until things at the shop at finalized, until Jason was official part owner with Roy, and. "No."
He likes to think he might win one of these arguments with Dick one day, the ones that aren't really important in the long run. Where giving in doesn't mean something bad happening. Nothing bad, no, but that won't stop Roy and Kory from laughing at him when he tells them how Dick's making his life worse with each new thing he does because they just don't fucking understand.
"...You already named it, didn't you."
Dick looks away, going shifty and completely transparent. "Uh. He already had a name?"
Right, because that's enough to keep Dick from re-naming the poor mutt something like Fluffy McFlufferkins because Dick is a dick, and not even animals are safe from him.
Dick brightens, like he thinks he's won - he has, but Jason can't let him know that or he'll keep doing things like this. It's like living with a perpetual toddler.
It turns out the dog's name is Tim, and Tim is a fussy little bastard once he gets over his initial shyness around them. It's clear that Tim adores the hell out of Dick, following him around and basically acting like Dick is the best thing to ever happen to him. Jason gets wary looks and big sad eyes, but Dick seems to think the damn dog is warming up to him, slowly but surely.
"I don't get what your deal is." And no, talking to the stupid mutt does not mean Jason's crazy. "Dick loves you, but Dick loves everyone and everything."
Tim cocks his head to the side, looking at Jason like he's not really sure of his sanity. Fucking mutt.
This, right here. This is why Roy and Kory laugh at him, because he talks to Dick's dog like it understands him, and he's maybe a little jealous of the attention Dick gives it, which is stupid. It's a dog.
Jesus Christ, Jason's life. What happened to it?
Tim whines, pads over to Jason – and hesitates is the best way to phrase that. It kills Jason every time he does. Like he's not sure what he's doing, what Jason might do, and rests a paw on Jason's leg. Light, barely there. There's tension in the line of his frame, like he'll bolt the moment Jason moves.
"Jesus." Jason slowly - damn mutt doesn't take people moving fast around him well - reaches out to scratch his ears. Tim freezes under his hand, watching Jason warily, still looking for the trick, the catch. Like things like this, someone being kind to him has a price. (Jason understands that all too well, and it makes him so fucking angry that Tim had to learn that too.)
Times like this, when Jason sees how fucking damaged Tim is, make him so damn relieved Dick decided Tim was theirs, even if Jason didn't want any part of it at first. "Stupid mutt."
"I'm worried about Tim."
Jason sighs. "Really, Dick? Now?"
It needs to be asked, it really does. They've both had a long couple of weeks, finding a new place to live, the hell of packing and moving and unpacking, and there's still more that needs to be done, but for now? Right now? Jason just wants to sleep.
He's warm and sleepy with Dick wrapped around him like an octopus wanting to talk about their dog like he's their kid and that. Jason probably should have seen this coming, is the thing. He knows how Dick thinks, after all.
"He's not eating all his food anymore." Dick's arms tightens around him. "Do you think he could be sick?"
It could be the stress of moving that's put him off his food, they both know that. Tim came to them nervous, skittish, and something big like moving so soon after he'd gotten some kind of stability in his life would be enough to affect anyone, let alone a dog who didn't understand everything was going to be fine. That they're just moving to a bigger apartment, somewhere with more room for all of them.
"Maybe it's a phase." Damn mutt better not be sick, better not break Dick's heart. "Teenage rebellion. You know how kids are at his age."
Dick laughs, breath warm against Jason's throat. "We should probably have a talk with him about alcohol and drugs."
Jason won't put something like that past Dick, actually. "You're giving him the safe sex talk." Jason needs to record that if he does, show it to Roy and Kory to prove to them Dick isn't all sunshine and rainbows and backflips at inappropriate times. That he is, indeed, not entirely all there.
"Seriously, Jay, I think something's wrong."
He doesn't know what to say to make this better for Dick, but this he can do."I'll take him to the vet in the morning, okay?" It'll make Dick, make them both breathe easier.
Dick reaches for his hand and threads their fingers together, “I'm scared,” and “Thank you,” and “I love you,” that doesn't need words to be understood.
According to the vet, nothing's wrong with Tim. He's perfectly healthy and happy and it's driving Dick crazy trying to figure out what's going on with him. It's driving Jason crazy because as much as he protested keeping Tim, he's their dog. He's their dog and something is wrong with him because he won't finish his food and this is exactly why Jason didn't want to keep him. This nagging worry that something's wrong, something the vet can't find and can't fix and there's nothing they can do.
Jason is tired, so very tired. Things have been crazy at the shop with Roy out most of the week due to Lian catching the chicken pox, leaving Jason and Kory to deal with the extra work. Dick's working a case that doesn't look like it's going to be solved anytime soon, and now there's Tim to worry about.
"What the hell are you doing, Dick?" It's ass o'clock in the morning and Dick is lurking in the hallway leading to the kitchen. And. Are those are night vision goggles? "Seriously, the fuck are you doing?"
Dick waves a hand at him, shushing him. "Quiet. Come look."
Jason stares at Dick. Dick with his night vision goggles with an all too familiar logo on them (goddammit, Bruce, stop feeding your son's neuroses), a thermos of coffee and the last of the donuts, crouched in their hallway like he's -
"It this is a fucking stakeout? Are you seriously staking out our kitchen, Dick?"
Jason looks, not because Dick tells him to, but because he can't stand to look at Dick at the moment because Dick is actually crazy and there's no denying it now with all the fantastic proof he's giving Jason. Jason looks and doesn't know what he's looking at for a moment, because.
"What the hell - "
Because that always works so well.
Still, despite the noise they're making, Tim scrambles up onto the kitchen counter and noses the window lock up and over, pressing a paw against the glass to open it. Seconds later a cat climbs through, stopping to touch noses with Tim, who wags his tail happily at the greeting.
"Dick, what." Dick doesn't answer, not that Jason expects, it, because they're both watching things unfold. Jason wondering when, exactly, he stepped into a Disney movie, or maybe it's more Pixar territory.
Tim hops down, and looks up at the cat who walks across their kitchen counter, pretty as you please, before jumping down right next to Tim's food bowl. It meows softly once, like a thank you for the meal, and starts eating while Tim looks on.
"What - "
The cat pauses, looks back at them with an expression on its face that says clear as day that it thinks they're morons - not entirely untrue.
"What the hell is going on?" Jason only just remembers to keep his voice down, not wanting Dick to shush him again. "Where did the cat come from?"
Dick shrugs, pushing the night vision goggles – why, he doesn't even need them - up. "I don't know, but this has been going on for a while now." He looks relieved. "I mean, I've only been watching for a few days, but she always shows up."
Jason thinks about that for a moment, about what that means. It means Dick has been staking out their kitchen for days now, has been watching a cat come into their apartment to eat their dog's food. Their dog, who has apparently been saving part of his food for a cat they don't even know. Their dog, who knows how to unlock and open their kitchen window.
"You see absolutely nothing strange about this picture, do you." Not even a question, because Dick has that look on his face. The same look he had when he brought Tim home and they somehow became dog owners. "No, Dick."
Tim is one thing. He's quiet and rarely causes trouble, his recent health scare aside, which from what Roy and Kory have told him, is kind of a miracle. Adding in a cat, no matter how much Tim must like her if he's saving food for her and opening their kitchen window to let her into their home, is just asking for disaster. Jason doesn't even like cats.
That Jason's first thought is to wonder if Tim's the father only goes to show how much Dick's infected him with his crazy.
"Oh my God, Dick, no."
Jason gets the double-whammy of Dick's puppy dog eyes and one of his most devastating pouts to date, and Jason is only human.
"Fucking fine, Dick. But you have to make sure she doesn't belong to a little girl somewhere who's heartbroken about her missing cat, okay?" Like Jason really thinks that's going to make Dick re-think his stance on being a pushover when it comes to anything, especially animals.
"Thanks, Jason," Dick pulls him in for a hug and quick kiss – Jason stops it from becoming anything more than that because Tim and the damn cat are watching them, and that's in no way awkward at all.
Jason makes Dick put up flyers all over the neighborhood and a few online. Jason puts up flyers around the shop and pretends Roy and Kory aren't taking bets as to how long before Dick and Jason become cat owners because they're horrible people and Jason's trying not to think about that himself.
Two weeks later with no responses regarding the cat, Dick proclaims her name to be Stephanie, although they end up shortening it to Steph. Jason ignores money changing hands between Roy and Kory, and hates his life a little more.
Steph is beautiful and knows it, taking her rightful place in their household as queen. Tim loves the hell out of her, and Steph is clearly fond of him. Watching the two of them, Jason finds it hard to argue with Dick's assessment of Tim and Steph being heterosexual life partners. Especially when Steph has her kittens and Tim acts very much the doting father to them.
Dick fills an entire memory card with pictures of Tim, Steph, and the kittens.
Tim letting the kittens climb all over him like he's the best jungle gym in the world. Tim curled around Steph and the kittens at night. Tim carrying the kittens around for Steph. Tim herding the kittens, fetching them from under whatever piece of furniture they've managed to squeeze under. Tim letting the kittens practice their stalking skills on his tail. Tim helping Steph give the kittens baths.
"This is your fault, mutt." Tim stares up at Jason in confusion as Steph's kittens run rampant in their kitchen, knocking shit over and getting into everything. "Don't try that look with me, Tim, I'm not Dick."
Dick actually thinks they're in control here, that Tim and Steph and her hellspawn offspring aren't the ones pulling the strings. That they're Dick and Jason's pets, not their furry evil overlords. Dick is, it has to be said, astonishingly oblivious at times.
Steph trots past with the runt of the litter in her mouth. A coal black kitten with a nasty temperament that Dick is absolutely smitten with, and Jason honestly believes is trying to kill him.
"I hate everything."
Tim whines, resting his head on Jason's leg and giving him the soulful eye treatment and this. This is why Dick's an idiot because he brought Tim into their lives, and Tim brought Steph and her litter of demon kittens and now everything is in shambles.
Jason's hand finds its way to Tim's head, fingers gently scratching. "Stupid mutt."
Jason isn't even surprised when he comes home one day to find Dick dangling a piece of string in front of a sleek black cat he's never seen before.
"I don't even want to know." He really doesn't. "Just tell me no one's going to cry over their missing cat and that it has all its shots." If it gives the others something, Jason will not be held responsible for the yelling he'll be doing, and there will be a lot of yelling taking place.
"Her name's Cassandra, but I'm calling her Cass." It's like Dick has something against formal names. "Alfred found her on the manor grounds, and thought we'd like her."
Or that it might be better for someone who didn't have a Great Dane, no matter how gentle Titus is, to take her in. One of the two.
"I told you I didn't want to know."
Except. Steph is sidling over with a glint in her eyes that means mischief, and Damian, the black ball of fur and evil Jason already knows they're going to keep seems fascinated by her, and Tim. Tim is watching all of them, tongue lolling out in a happy doggy grin, and. Dick. Dick looks so damn content, he's smiling so big and happy it hurts a little to see.
"Welcome home, Jason." Dick's smile softens, because for all that he can be a dense bastard most of the time, he's alarmingly perceptive when he wants to be.
Dick says that every damn time Jason walks through the door at the end of the day. He says it every damn day and it's always the same. It's "I missed you," and "I love you," and sometimes there's an, "I may have accidentally set the kitchen on fire, please don't be mad," thrown in there because it's Dick saying these things to him.
It always hits Jason the same way, knocks him off-balance with how much Dick means it, how much he loves Jason. Jason who doesn't expect a lot out of life, and now, for whatever reason, has this.
He has Dick and their unlikely menagerie. He has a terrifying father-in-law type figure in Bruce, and an even more terrifying grandfather-in-law figure in Alfred. (No matter how kindly he smiles at Jason, how unobtrusive he is, Alfred's the one to watch.) Jason has all of this, and he never expected it, never asked for it because he doesn't. People like him don't get these kinds of things, but somehow he did, and it never fails to amaze him.
"You're an idiot." Dick's the worst kind of idiot because no matter what happens, he'll pick himself up and keep going, keep smiling, laughing.
Dick grins, like he hears the same things in Jason's words that Jason does when Dick welcomes him home. "You need to see this thing she can do, it's incredible."
And. Jason watches Dick teasing Cass with the string, watches her perform unbelievable acrobatic feats. Watches as Steph and her kittens try to copy her and failing, Tim watching from the couch, and feels. The same kind of crazy Dick must be to feel this happy, this content, and finds he doesn't mind it one damn bit.