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Shakespearean - JayTim

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Jason should have known it wouldn't work out as well as he hoped. In fact, he should have learned by now not to hope at all. No hope equals no disappointment, after all, and it's better to be pleasantly surprised than to have your hopes dashed to the ground like a ceramic pot on a cement floor.

He couldn't believe his luck, either the good or the bad. Actually, that's not true. Bad luck was something he was used to. The good luck was the part he couldn't believe.

Here he was, a scholarship student who honestly shouldn't even have been accepted into the university at all. He could have listed a million reasons why the dean of admissions should have kicked his sorry ass to the curb without even reading his application. There was absolutely no reason whatsoever for him to give Jason a full-ride scholarship, and a job at the campus library to boot. Jason still couldn't figure out how it happened. He hadn't expected it, couldn't explain it, and refused to question or scrutinize it too closely. All he would do, all he could do, was anything and everything it took to make sure his good luck lasted as long as humanly possible.

Of course, as soon as Jason made that decision everything went to hell. But, he reminded himself, he should be used to shitty things happening to him. Bad luck wasn't even his middle name, more like his first.

In his defense though, what happened wasn't entirely his fault. It wasn't even mostly his fault. Jason had just been walking to class with a plan to get there early to make a good first impression on his professor. He'd managed to test out of a lot of the core curriculum for a BA, so he got to start out with a pretty good class on his roster for the semester. Journalism was an important subject for someone trying to get a BA in English. Best to start out on the right foot, right? He had never been accused of being a teacher's pet, mostly because he hadn't actually gone to school for very long, but he wouldn't exactly get offended if it happened.

Not that much offended Jason anyway.

So he was walking to his first class, actually feeling pretty good for once, when some kid just runs into him. Literally, runs into him. The two of them fell to the ground before Jason even knew what was happening, but he figured it out the moment his ass met the concrete. He jerked up to a sitting position, ready to chew out the idiot who ran into him. Jason almost felt bad for the kid; he wasn't exactly known for having good anger management. He opened his mouth, scathing words on his tongue and daggers in his eyes, when he felt it all at once.

The burning, searing pain of a spilt coffee from Starbucks raged across his abdomen and seeped down to his groin. It took him a moment to be able to breathe, and when he could his anger only grew. "What the actual fuck?" he yelled, barely contained rage, and pain, evident in his tone.

Of course, that was when he noticed that the kid who ran in to him was actually a really hot, albeit short, guy close to Jason's age. A really hot guy who had actually landed on his lap as they hit the ground. A really hot guy who looked startled, embarrassed, and maybe a little bit afraid.

A really hot guy who had spilt boiling hot coffee on Jason's favorite Tee, which he was now going to have to change because he could not go to his first class with an important professor with a coffee stain on his shirt. Jason hated coffee, and he now noticed that it wasn't even black coffee. No, this guy (this really hot guy with the most attractive glasses ever) had the nerve to spill a latte on him. A fucking latte! Jason hated lattes with a burning passion that would never die.

The guy on Jason's lap blinked a couple times before swallowing. He took in a deep breath of air and immediately began rambling. "Shit, man, I am so sorry. I can't believe I did this again. I should have been watching where I was going. Are you okay? Oh god, your shirt! I might have some napkins or tissues in my backpack-"

"Kid!" Jason had to stop him right there because it was one thing when he was a really hot guy who spilled coffee on him and knocked him over and landed in his lap. It was quite another thing entirely when said hot guy had a really smooth voice, and it was way deeper than you could possibly expect from somebody so small. It just wasn't fair, honestly, especially when Hot Guy's really nice fingers pushed his glasses up more firmly on his nose out of nervous embarrassment. For fuck's sake.

Jason was so busy staring at Hot Guy's fingers, which were now tapping a rhythm onto the kid's thigh, that he forgot he had interrupted him. He drew a blank on all the scathing words he was going to say about manners and watching where he was going. All he could think to say was, "You're still sitting on my lap."

Hot Guy looked down, observing the fact that he was indeed sitting on Jason's lap. He made a small choking sound and scrambled to his feet. After a second's hesitation, he reached out a hand to help Jason stand. Any other time, Jason would have ignored it like the asshole he was and made his own way to his feet, but this was Hot Guy, who had really, really nice hands, and Jason just couldn't pass up on an opportunity to touch one of them.

Once Jason was on his feet, he looked down to survey the damage. It was so bad. A big brown stain marred the front of his white graphic Tee from the bottom of his ribcage to the hem. "Shit," he said. Jason really couldn't go to class like this. He checked his watch real quick to see how much time he had, and he cursed again when he saw that he might barely make it on time if he left right that second. He sighed in irritation and had a hand running through his hair when Hot Guy decided to speak again.

"Um," Jason looked up at him out of the corner of his eye. "I really am so sorry about your shirt. I can pay you for it though. I mean, I know those band shirts can be kind of pricey, and I really don't think that stain is going to come out very easy so-"

"I don't want your money, kid." That came out a little harsher than Jason had intended, but the level of hotness in an individual didn't really do much to impact Jason's short temper. Hot Guy paused in the middle of his sentence, his mouth still partially open. "It's not a big deal, really. I'll just have to go back and change real quick."

"Were you in a hurry to get somewhere?"

Jason sighed. Apparently he wasn't getting out of this conversation as quickly as he'd hoped. "Yeah, my first class with a professor I was hoping to impress. It doesn't matter anymore. I'll lick my wounds and show up late."

Hot Guy shifted his weight. "Can I ask which professor it is? I might could tell you how they'll react. I know pretty much all the faculty."

Jason raised an eyebrow, but indulged the kid. "Professor Kent. Journalism."

Hot Guy's face lit up. "Oh, Clark?" The kid laughed at Jason's obvious confusion. "Just tell him Tim spilled his coffee all over you. He'll get a laugh out of it and you'll get the best first impression ever. Clark loves me."

Jason wasn't so sure, but he figured he'd give it a shot. "Thanks, maybe I'll try that."

"You should," Hot Guy said, nodding his enthusiasm. "Are you a journalism major?"

He shook his head. "English, but I have an emphasis on Professional Writing and I'm minoring in Journalism, so I figured I'd end up with Professor Kent a lot."

Hot Guy nodded. "You will. And you'll probably love it. Everybody likes Clark. I mean, Professor Kent."

Jason tilted his head to the side. "First name basis with the Journalism professor. Does that mean you're a journalism major?"

The kid snorted. "No way. The written word is definitely not my jam." His emphasis of the word 'not' was almost comical. "I'm dual majoring in computer science and forensics. Clark is just an old family friend. His son is one of my best friends."

Computer Science and forensics, huh? Jason always knew a nerd when he saw one. "Cool. Well, uh, nice meeting you, I guess. You said Tim, right?"

Tim nodded. "Yeah. It was nice meeting you." The kid winced as he took in the coffee stain again. "I really am so sorry about your shirt. And that's such a cool band, too." He really did sound so sad about the ruined shirt. Jason couldn't help a small smile.

"There's more where this one came from. Don't worry about it." He looked down to survey his shirt again and caught the time on his watch in the process. "Oh, shit. I'm going to miss most of the class at this point." He looked up at Tim and gave him a grin. "See you around, Tim. Hopefully next time we run into each other it won't involve actual running. Or coffee."

Tim laughed, even as his ears turned a bit red. "I'll do my best not to be a walking hazard. Nice meeting you- Hey, I didn't catch your name."

Jason was already walking away, but he looked back at Tim over his shoulder. "Jason."

And with that he ran back to his dorm.

Chapter Text

By the time Jason got back to his dorm, changed his shirt and his jeans, which had been dampened by contact with his wet shirt, and made it to class, he was a good 30 minutes late. He slipped in through the side door just as Professor Kent was finishing up going over the syllabus. He looked up at Jason and nodded his acknowledgement, but he didn't pause as he went on to describe how everything was going to work in the class and what he hoped everyone would get out of it.

Jason sat in the back row and paid close attention to everything being said. He didn't actually care much about the information being given, but he was hoping to make up for his tardiness. There were only a couple dozen people in the class, which Jason assumed was because it was supposed to be a third year level class, not a freshman class. Jason was on the verge of zoning out when Professor Kent said, "Now, I know going over the syllabus is the most boring thing on earth, so most of you probably didn't pay much attention." A few of the kids a couple rows up looked sheepish, but Kent had everyone's attention now. "So, for those of you who weren't interested in anything else, listen to this part. If the lot of you only remember one thing from today's class remember what I'm about to tell you."

Jason subconsciously leaned forward in his seat. He vaguely heard a random student tapping his foot, and another one sneezed. Other than that there was utter silence in the room as Professor Kent paused, presumably for dramatic affect. He smirked, as though he knew and expected what his words would do to the class.

"Every lesson I will teach you something about journalism. I know, I know, that seems rather obvious since you are in a journalism class. But instead of teaching you a bunch of jargon or definitions or rules or whatever, I'm going to give you one lesson, just one, in easily understood words. I'll keep this lesson short and sweet, and more often than not, it will probably be very applicable to life in general in addition to journalism." Professor Kent finished his statement and walked to his desk. He grabbed a stack of papers and handed them to a student in the front row, giving him instructions to take one and pass it down. "This is your assignment for the week. Each paper has a topic. You are all to research the topic and compile as much information as you can in an essay-style paper in the allotted space on your sheet. You are not to write on any other paper, you may not write on the back, and you may not write in the margins. Your writing must be legible, so don't make it too small."

Everybody took their paper and read their prompt. Jason raised an eyebrow when he saw his topic: 'Human Trafficking.' Jason swallowed and wondered what it would take to get someone to switch with him. Jason didn't have a problem with the topic itself, but it brought a familiar bad taste to the back of his tongue.

"I know some of you are tempted to switch your topic. While I can't track whether or not you do, I would encourage you not to." Jason internally groaned at Professor Kent's words. "I gave out important topics, some of which aren't very well known. While they might be difficult to find information on, or you might not be interested, I would encourage you to research them anyway. If it doesn't interest you, you might change your mind when you have more info." One of the students snorted at that, and the corner of Professor Kent's mouth quirked in a barely-hidden smile as he continued. "Regardless of whether or not you like it, I know for a fact that each of these topics will grow you as a writer, a researcher, a journalist, and maybe even as a human being. Just give them a shot."

Half the class groaned while the other half mostly nodded or shrugged. Jason sighed in resignation and slipped his paper into a binder so it wouldn’t get wrinkled up. A lot of students started packing up when everyone noticed that the class was supposed to be over three minutes before. As people started standing up and moving towards the door, Professor Kent spoke again. “Oh, and one last thing.” Everyone paused in what they were doing and looked his way. “The word ‘gullible’ is written on the ceiling.”

Half the class gave him a look of skepticism, while the other half looked up. Jason was part of the latter group, and he couldn’t restrain himself from uttering a quiet, “The hell?” as he saw that there was, in fact, a large paper sign with the word ‘GULLIBLE’ written in all caps taped to the ceiling. Now the whole class was staring at Professor Kent with confused expressions.

Professor Kent smirked. “First lesson of Journalism: Always check your sources. If someone tells you something, if you read something, if you get any kind of information in any way, check it out. No matter how ludicrous it sounds, or even if it sounds so logical and makes so much sense that you don’t think there is any way it could be wrong, check it. Don’t take somebody’s word for anything, and don’t ignore what you don’t think is plausible. Anyone can be wrong, and anything is possible. Now, you’re all dismissed.”

Tim was right. Jason did like Clark Kent.

As the class broke up and students started filing out of the room, Jason slowly packed his bags as he considered how exactly he was going to do his research assignment. His thoughts were interrupted, however, by someone tapping on his shoulder. It took everything Jason had not to reflexively sucker-punch whoever snuck up on him. He jerked his head up and over his shoulder to find Professor Kent looking at him with an expression torn between concern, curiosity, and disappointment. “You’re Jason Todd, right?”

Jason’s eyebrows shot up. “Um, yeah? How’d you know?”

Kent’s expression didn’t change, but his eyes were lit with amusement. “Well, you were the only student who wasn’t present when everybody introduced themselves at the beginning of class.” Jason shifted his weight and tried to keep his hands from fiddling, his ears going red with embarrassment. “You also received the Wayne Scholarship. Makes you easy to recognize.”

“Oh, yeah. Nice to know that everybody knows I’m a charity case.” Jason hadn’t meant for that to come out or for it to sound so rude. Jason had a lot of pride and not much self-control, and that wasn’t usually a very good mix.

Professor Kent’s eyebrows wrinkled. “You aren’t a charity case, Mr. Todd. And if you are, I guess that makes me one, too.” Kent elaborated when he saw Jason’s look of confusion. “I won that same scholarship when I was about your age. Good thing, too, or there was no way I could have gone to college at all. But I guess that’s the whole point of the scholarship, isn’t it?” Jason nodded and Professor Kent gave him a warm smile. “It’s nothing to be ashamed of. It just means that the appropriator of the scholarship saw something in you that made you worth all that money.”

Jason’s lips quirked in a small smile. “Right. Thanks, Professor Kent.”

Kent nodded, then his look of disappointment returned. “Speaking of your scholarship, most winners are usually more concerned with arriving to their classes on time. Did you get lost?”

Jason stiffened. “Um, this kid ran into me on my way over here. His name was, uh…, well, he told me to tell you that Tim spilled his coffee all over me.”

Kent busted out laughing. It was a deep belly laugh that reverberated throughout the whole classroom. The two or three stragglers glanced over with raised eyebrows before carrying on with their very slow meander toward the door. When Professor Kent finally calmed down, he wiped tears from the corners of his eyes. “He did that again? Gosh, that kid will never learn.” Jason tilted his head to the side, and Kent explained. “Tim is always running into people. Too little sleep and too much caffeine doesn’t exactly help him with observation, and it isn’t good for his reflexes either.”

Jason grinned. “Yeah, he told me you’d probably get a kick out of it if I told you.”

“He was right.” Kent chuckled one last time before shaking his head. “As excuses go, that’s actually a really good one. I’ve known that kid since he was, like, nine, and he’s been doing stuff like that since long before I met him. He must have been awfully quiet after that fiasco.”

Jason shook his head. “Not really. He actually kept asking me questions and offering to pay me for ruining my shirt and stuff.”

Kent didn’t seem to believe him. “Really? Tim did?”

“Yeah. Is that unusual?”

“Tim is by far the most anti-social, introverted kid I know. He doesn’t prolong conversations unless he has no choice or it’s a conversation about something he actually finds really interesting. So talking to a stranger that he embarrassed himself in front of?” Professor Kent snorted his disbelief. “Never in my life time, that’s for sure. Are you sure we’re talking about the same Tim?”

“Black hair, blue eyes, nerdy glasses, the biggest coffee mug I’d ever seen in my life, about yay-high?” Jason held his hand up just below his shoulder.

“Yeah, that’s him. The coffee mug confirmed it.” Kent shook his head.

“Weird.” Jason couldn’t think of another word for it. He certainly couldn’t reconcile the Tim he’d met that morning with the Tim Professor Kent was describing.

“Yes, weird.” Professor Kent’s tone made Jason snap his head up from where he’d been arranging his backpack. He older man was giving him a strange look. It only lasted a moment before Kent blinked and shook his head a little. “Well, maybe you bring out the best in him.”

“Maybe.”

“Well,” Kent looked around to see that the classroom was empty. “Another teacher has this room for the next class, so we’d better skedaddle. Unless you have Intro to Metaphysics as your next class?”

Jason shook his head emphatically, causing Professor Kent to laugh. The two made their way to the door, and Kent quickly grabbed all his things. They headed out together into the fresh outdoors, and Professor Kent shook Jason’s hand. “It was nice meeting you, Jason.” He flashed him a crooked grin. “Try not to be late next week, alright?”

Jason smiled back and nodded. “Yes, sir. I’ll do my best. Maybe I’ll pack an extra shirt in my backpack, just in case.”

“You do that, kid.” Professor Kent laughed and nodded before turning to walk to his car, and Jason walked the opposite way back to his dorm.

Chapter Text

Jason decided on ramen for lunch. Yeah, he knew it was cliché, but stereotypes exist for a reason. It's because they're usually accurate.

He was enjoying his time to himself. He had thought about working on his research assignment, but he was a procrastinator by nature so he settled on reading a new book. He had made it a few chapters when his roommate, Roy Harper, came banging into the dorm. They had met the previous Saturday, and Jason had decided he liked Roy. They were just enough alike to get along, but not so similar that they clashed.

"Sup, Jason," Roy said. He dropped his laptop bag on his bed and flopped down beside it.

Jason looked up from his book, observing Roy's quiet sigh and his look of exhaustion. "Today has been a day. How you holding up?"

Roy gave him a look and snapped, "I'm just peachy, Jay. Real peachy."

A raised eyebrow was Jason's only reply. He went back to his book. The silence only lasted a few minutes before Roy sighed harshly and shook his head a little. "Sorry, man. I'm just stressed."

Jason nodded his acknowledgement of Roy's apology. "Why's that?"

Roy hesitated a beat before giving in. "My girlfriend. Her mom's back in the hospital and she's been stressed about it, which means I'm stressed."

Jason shifted his position on his bed. "Her mom gunna be alright?"

Roy shrugged. "Probably. It's been on and off for years, but any time it flares up could be the time that kills her."

Jason let out a breath and leaned forward, putting his elbows on his knees. He set his book aside and picked at a loose string on the hem of his cargo shorts. "That sucks, man."

Roy snorted. "Yeah. Yeah, it does." They shared another minute of silence before Roy shrugged again. "It is what it is. How was your first class?"

The question brought a smile to his face. He quickly told Roy what had happened that morning, starting with his encounter with Tim and ending with his conversation with Professor Kent. "Tim was right. Professor Kent is awesome."

Roy smirked and shook his head. "Your first day of class and you meet Clark Kent and Tim Drake. You've got weird luck, dude."

Jason's eyebrows shot up. "Drake? Like that big-ass tech company?"

"Drake Incorporated, yeah. Tim is the son of the founder." Roy grinned at Jason's obvious astonishment.

Stunned, Jason wasn't actually sure he was understanding correctly. "Holy shit, man. Everybody's saying they’re the next Apple."

"They are. They've been responsible for more than half the technological advancements in the last 20 years. The only reason Apple is still such a big deal because they have a freaking monopoly on everything for the most part, including music. Most MP3 players just can't compete with iPods. But just cause Mr. Drake is dead doesn't mean the company doesn't have a bunch of geniuses on staff. "

"Oh, yeah. I forgot about that. They got murdered, didn't they?" Jason leaned his back against the wall next to his bed, remembering the news story he'd seen a couple months back about the 10 year anniversary.

Roy nodded. "Yeah, it was pretty bloody. Tim saw it happen."

"Shit." Jason thought back to Tim as he saw him that morning. He hadn't seemed like the kind of person who had witnessed his parents' gruesome murders as a young child. Then again, Jason had been through a lot of shit, too, and nobody seemed to be able to tell by looking at him either.

"Yeah. But he got adopted by Bruce Wayne, so his life hasn't sucked too bad, I guess."

"Bruce Wayne? As in Wayne Industries? As in the sponsor for the Wayne Scholarship and the founder of the Wayne Foundation?" No fucking way. There was no way, no way at all, that the Tim who had spilled coffee all over him that morning was the son of the guy who was responsible for Jason even being there at all.

Roy nodded, laughing at Jason's surprise. "Yeah, man. Mr. Wayne took over the Drakes' company until Tim comes of age, which should happen in a couple months. Tim isn't looking forward to being the owner of a major conglomerate, even if it was his father's."

Jason had to take a second to wrap his head around it all. Short, nerdy, hot Tim Drake was the heir to a multi-billion dollar company, which his deceased father founded 20+ years ago. Jason could hardly believe everything Roy was telling him. Tim hadn't acted like a rich kid at all. "Wait a sec, how do you know all this? It can't all be common knowledge."

"Tim's older brother, Dick, is an old friend of mine." The redhead smirked. "I'm pretty well connected." And smug, too, apparently.

"You don't look rich." Jason didn't mean it offensively or anything. It was an honest observation, and he had always been too blunt for his own good.

Roy didn't get offended anyway. He just laughed. "I'm not. Not even close, not really. I was a street kid. My girlfriend's mom is one of Oliver Queen's sisters, and the Queens are good friends of the Waynes because of Wayne Industries' partnership with Queen Consolidated, as well as the fact that rich people tend to stick together. My girlfriend, Artemis, ran away from home when she was 9, and I helped her out when she was on the streets."

Jason laughed at the craziness of it. "No shit?"

"No shit. She went back home when her asshole of a dad got arrested, and she took me with her. Oliver Queen took me in, said I reminded him of himself or some shit. I was never adopted though. Just a foster." What the actual fucking hell?

"Damn, Roy. Lucky punk if I ever saw one."

"Damn straight. So that's how I know the Wayne family."

Jason shook his head in wonder. "So how does everybody know Professor Kent? He rich now, too?"

That made Roy laugh. "No. Not even close. He could be if he wanted to, but he's such a bleeding heart that he gives away practically everything he has. Him and his causes... No, he knows Bruce because he got the Wayne Scholarship when he was a student, and now he and Bruce are both teachers. You wouldn't think journalism and linguistics were that closely related, but they share a lot of students."

Jason's eyebrows wrinkled. "Bruce Wayne is a linguistics professor?" Roy nodded. "But he's rich. And he has Wayne Industries." Roy nodded again. "And I thought he was some badass homicide detective or some shit."

Roy sighed. "He's rich because of Wayne Industries and he inherited his parents' money. He owns Wayne Industries, but he doesn't really do anything for the company. He just owns a majority of the shares so he's on the board or whatever. And he was a homicide detective. He was the best, probably ever. He just hated it. Decided he'd rather be a teacher, that his parents would approve more of that anyway, and that he really liked learning languages or something. I think he said once that he only became a detective to solve his parents' murder, so once he'd done that he didn't need it anymore and lost all interest."

Jason was silent for a moment before he snorted in amusement. His roommate was Oliver Queen's ward, his journalism professor was a personal friend of the Billionaire Brucie, and the guy who spilled coffee on him that morning was the adopted son of said Brucie and the heir to Drake Incorporated. "People's lives are weird."

"Agreed," Roy said. "Well, I have to get ready for work." He reluctantly stood up and popped every vertebra in his back. Then he got his uniform out of his closet, grabbed his shower stuff and headed out to the communal showers.

Long after Roy finished his shower and went to work, Jason still sat on his bed in silence, wondering how the heck any of what had happened today was even possible. Holy fucking shit.

Chapter Text

Tuesday brought two more classes, both requisites for a degree and boring as hell. Jason was relieved when he got back to his dorm, and he nearly groaned aloud when he remembered that he had to start his first day of work at the campus library in a couple hours. He was grateful that his schedule would end up giving him Sunday, Monday, and Thursday off, but he was currently longing for Tuesday off as well.

He sighed heavily and emptied his book bag. Since his shift that day would be around 6 hours long, he wouldn't have much time afterwards for anything more than dinner, and maybe a little studying, if he wanted to get some decent sleep before an early class the next day. Knowing this, he went ahead and put everything away. He had about forty-five minutes before he would have to get ready for work and head over there, so he decided to use it doing research for his journalism topic.

Jason wasn't sure just how much research he would require. His childhood hadn't exactly been... orthodox, so he knew quite a bit about human trafficking and the like. Still, he decided some statistics would be useful. He couldn't exactly give Professor Kent a personal testament to the life of a street brat, and he couldn't get all that information on that one sheet of paper even if he wanted to.

Jason decided to stick to the facts and what would probably pass for a very short research paper. He gathered statistics on the number of kids that were sold in human trafficking on average per year, the gender, age, and ethnicity percentages, areas where they ended up, and how many kidnapped kids were generally recovered. Jason found it to actually be a lot more interesting than he had thought, and he got sucked into his research. By the time he snapped out of the zone, the clock told him he had less than an hour to get ready and get to the library.

Jason forwent a shower and dressed quickly. He then left his dorm and walked over to the library. Luckily, it wasn't too far away, so he arrived a good ten minutes early. He was greeted by his new boss, who showed him how to sign in and gave him a quick tour of the offices and where everything was. She then handed him off to another member of the staff whose mission was to show him what would be expected of him during general work hours. Basically, he was re-shelving, helping anyone who asked for it, checking books out, and other general stuff.

Once he had shown that he had the hand of things, the lady, Terry, left him to it with a pat on the back and an overly nice, "You're such a fast learner, Jason!" He meandered throughout the library, pretending to be organizing the shelves while actually checking out potential new reads. Working at the library seemed like it was going to be pretty easy going, not that Jason expected any different. Still, he had hoped he would actually get to read. Instead, he figured, he would probably have to make sure he looked busy or actually was busy all the time.

He was collecting a few books that had been left on tables by inconsiderate patrons when he saw a short, black-haired hottie with blue eyes hidden behind the most attractive glasses ever sitting at a table, frowning at the book he was reading. His forehead was scrunched up in concentration, and he didn't look pleased with what he was reading. Jason took a quick peak at the cover as he made his way over. "Romeo and Juliet, huh?"

Tim's head jerked up, and his jaw dropped a little when he recognized the speaker. "Jason?" The kid smiled at Jason's nod. "Fancy meeting you here."

Jason grinned. "Yeah, well, I work here now. This might become a thing, if we aren't careful."

"I wouldn't be too upset about that. Though I wouldn't blame you if you were, what with my hazardous coffee habits." Tim's impish grin told Jason he was joking.

Jason's laugh was probably a little too loud for a library, but he didn't really care. "Don't beat yourself up over a little coffee spill. That's my job." Tim chuckled and shook his head, but Jason didn't give him much time to reply. "Shakespeare fan?"

Tim's face contorted into a look of utter disgust, which became disdain when he looked down at the book he was holding. "Absolutely not. I thought I had gotten all of my basics out of the way in high school, but my adviser told me that I was missing an English credit, and by the time I registered, Shakespeare 101 was the only class that counted with an opening."

Tim didn't like Shakespeare. He was officially no longer boyfriend material.

"I like books. Not plays. Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Wolfe, Lewis, Tolkien, Atwood, Twain, Bronte, London; those are good authors. If I wanted to know what happened to Romeo and Juliet, I'd actually go see the play. Again." Tim ranted without taking a breath, so by the end of his tirade he drew in a big gasp of air.

Okay, so maybe Tim was boyfriend material. A little. Maybe.

Jason cleared his throat. "Well, I happen to love Shakespeare." Tim gave Jason a sharp look. "Mostly for the insults though." That got him an eyebrow raise.

"The insults?"

He nodded. "The insults. Shakespeare was a master of insults. The master. Throwing out a few Shakespearean insults at whatever dumb-ass had a problem with me always made me feel like the smartest guy in the room. Or alley, to be accurate. Then again, I usually was the smartest guy." Jason smirked. Tim's eyebrow didn't drop.

"What kind of insults?"

"Well, there's the good ol' fighting words, like, 'Methink'st thou art a general offence and every man should beat thee,' or 'I'll beat thee, but I would infect my hands.' I always liked those. There's also, 'The rankest compound of villainous smell that ever offended nostril,' 'Thine face is not worth sunburning,' and, 'Thou art a boil, a plague sore.'" Tim cracked up, and it was disturbing a few of the other patrons, but Jason could not care less. "My personal favorites though are, 'Thou sodden-witted lord! Thou hast no more brain than I have in mine elbows,' and, 'Would thou wert clean enough to spit upon.'"

Tim was still laughing, and Jason partially blamed it on the posh British accent he'd been using. When Tim had calmed down, he looked up at Jason with a smile. "Okay, so I guess Shakespeare isn't all bad."

"Yeah, but none of those were in Romeo and Juliet though."

Tim frowned and sighed. "This class is going to kill me. I didn't pay much attention to Shakespeare in high school, and I'm not all that good at it in general. His writing is too flowery and stuff. It's like decoding poetry in an ancient language."

Jason smirked. "It basically is decoding poetry in an ancient language. Or at least an ancient dialect of a modern language. Maybe try thinking of it like a puzzle." Jason remembered that Tim was a computer nerd. "Or maybe some uber complex computer code?"

Tim tilted his head to the side for a moment before nodding. "Yeah, I could try that. Thanks."

"Mhm. How exactly did you graduate from high school without learning anything at all about Shakespeare?"

Tim raised an eyebrow, but there was mirth in his eyes. "How exactly did you graduate from high school if you spent your time handing out Shakespearean insults in alleys?"

Jason smirked. "I didn't. I'm kind of the less-lucky version of Roy Harper. Street kid. Got my GED a year and a half ago."

Tim didn't quite gasp, but it was a close call. "Oh, dude, sorry. I just assumed, since you seem so smart and stuff... Wait, you know Roy Harper?"

Jason shrugged. "It's no big deal. And yeah, he's my roommate. I figured out you knew him when he asked me how my day was and I told him some douche-bag had the gall to spill his scalding hot coffee on me and make me late to my first class with Professor Kent." Jason laughed as Tim's face wrinkled and he dropped his head in his hands.

"You have got to be kidding me." He shook his head while it still lay in his hands. "This is not happening."

"It is, actually."

Tim looked up at him. "Asshole." Jason laughed, way too loud for a library, and he got a few dirty looks for it. "Now Roy is going to tell Dick and I'll never live it down."

"Dick is your older brother, right? Roy mentioned him."

"Yeah, that's him. He acts like a goodie-two-shoes, but he's actually just a little shit. That jerk-off never lets anything slide, I'm telling you."

Jason choked on a laugh. "Sorry, Tim. I guess life just sucks."

Tim scoffed. "Thanks for the sympathy."

Shifting his weight, Jason contemplated his next words for a moment before deciding to screw it and say it anyway. "You know, if you wanted, I could help you study. With the whole Shakespeare thing. I'm actually an expert, in case you didn't know."

Tim smirked. "Are you, now?"

"Totally. I'm very smart. For a street kid."

Tim rolled his eyes, but he had a small smile nevertheless. "You'd really help me with this?"

Jason snorted. "I offered, didn't I? It's not everyday someone else needs to pull on my Shakespearean expertise." He used his British accent again, and Tim laughed.

"That would actually be really cool. I'd like to be miserable as little as possible, and so far you've managed to make even lame-o Shakespeare a bit entertaining." The teasing grin brought out a chuckle from Jason, and he nodded his ascent.

"Alright, then. Why don't I give you my number, and you can let me know when or if you want to study?"

"That works perfectly."

The two exchanged phones and put in their numbers. When Jason got his phone back he saw that Tim had made his contact, "Coffee Douche-bag." He snorted and gave Tim a pointed look. The kid shrugged. "What? Tim is a very common name. I don't want you to confuse me with someone else."

Jason rolled his eyes. "That's what last names are for. Pretty sure there's only one Tim Drake in the world. At least, that I'm aware of."

Tim groaned. "Roy told you my last name, too?"

He nodded. "Was it supposed to be a secret?"

Tim sighed. "No, but still..."

Jason shrugged. "I get it. Rich kids get treated differently. I'd want anonymity, too, if I were you." Tim nodded, but Jason grinned. "Don't worry, Timmy. I couldn't care less about how much you've got in the bank, or how much Wayne's got, or anything else. You’ll always be the little shit that ruined my favorite shirt with a fucking latte"

Now Tim looked offended. "What do you mean, a fucking latte? Lattes are fantastic."

"Lattes are disgusting, even more so than regular coffee."

Tim rolled his eyes. "Well, then what do you drink? Soda?"

"Tea."

Tim suddenly looked interested. "Oh, that's cool. What kind?"

Jason shrugged. "Most kinds, actually. I drink plain black tea the most, but I like most anything. Except mint. That shit is weird."

Tim's shoulders shook with his laughter. A nearby student sighed harshly and said, "Shhhh!" Tim's whole face turned red and he whispered an apology.

"I've never had mint tea before," he whispered.

"Well then don't. It's disgusting." Jason decided to go ahead and whisper back, even though it felt kind of silly.

Tim nodded. "Yes, sir."

Jason rolled his eyes, but he stood up a bit straighter when he saw Terry the Librarian out of the corner of his eye. "I got to get back to work, Tim. See you around?"

Tim nodded once. "Definitely. And I'll take you up on that offer for a study-buddy."

Jason smiled as he started walking away. "Sure. I'm off work Sunday, Monday, and Thursday. Hit me up whenever."

Tim smiled and waved as Jason turned a corner. He almost ran right into Terry, but he caught himself just in time. He internally groaned when he saw her displeased expression. Today was going to be a long day.

Chapter Text

Tim was actually kind of happy.

He hadn't been able to say that in a long time, if ever. When his parents were still alive, his dad worked a lot, his mom socialized, and the staff changed every year or two because his mom was picky and easily angered. When they died, he was obviously upset. He mourned and grieved for a long time, which eventually stopped when he became part of Bruce's family. Dick was actually a pretty cool older brother, Alfred was kind of like a grandfather to him, and he had bonded with Bruce as they worked together to find his parents' killer.

Over the years he got more siblings. Steph, Cass, Damian, and even Babs came to be family over the years. Steph was cool, fun to argue with, and always doing crazy things. Cass was dependable, sturdy, and the least judgmental person Tim had ever met. Babs was the most badass surrogate sister anyone could ever have, and she totally understood his love for technology and computers. Even Damian had his upsides, though the little brat didn't show it very often.

As Clark and his son, Connor, became like a second family, Tim's life improved even further. He had had few good friends in his life before Connor. Bart was a good friend, but he lived so far away that it prevented them from really being close, and he was the kind of guy that was fun to hang out with but hard to be serious with. Connor could do whatever was needed of him, and he could do it well.

But he still couldn't really say he was happy. Content, maybe. He didn't really have much to complain about, and even if he did, he wouldn't ever have let himself. There were lots of good things in his life, but there was a certain weight that had hung over him like a cloud, a weight he had never been able to name, and still couldn't.

But something about Jason...

He made Tim smile and laugh. He didn't treat him like a rich kid, didn't treat him like he was fragile because of what happened to his parents. Con didn't do either of those things either, but Con was different anyway, being practically family and having grown up in close proximity to the Waynes and other wealthy families.

Tim could tell Jason had lived a hard life. There was a certain glint in his gray eyes, the glint of steel, that spoke of experience, knowledge, and pain beyond what Tim could imagine. But there was also a certain light, a measure of determination to not let the worst times overcome the good, to not let his past mess up his future, to move forward, move on, and move upward towards a potential that was obvious just by looking at him.

Tim couldn't help but smile as he looked at Jason's contact in his phone. Jason Todd. It was a good name. Tim liked it. Regardless, Tim liked nicknames for contacts even more. He smirked to himself as he changed it from Jason's name to, 'Shakespeare from the Hood'.

He thought about texting him. Jason had offered him his number in the first place, had actually said that Tim could text him, and Tim had a feeling he hadn't meant that Tim could only text him about studying. Still, Tim had just seen him yesterday. He didn't want to give a certain impression (which may or may not be accurate) that he might like Jason beyond the way people like each other in general, beyond a friendly way. Tim didn't even know if Jason liked guys. And Tim was probably overreacting and being dramatic, but he really didn't know for sure if he was. He had exactly zero experiences with this sort of thing.

It would not fall outside Tim's normal experience with luck for Jason to be straight as a steel pole (those weren’t exactly bendy). Tim really hoped he wasn't, but his experience also told him hope was a dangerous thing.

He sighed, no less conflicted than he had been before. He decided to screw it and sent off a quick text.

"Hi."

Tim decided holding his breath might not be the wisest choice for his health, so he tried to make himself busy. Unfortunately, the only work he really had to do was reading for his Shakespeare class, which would not help distract him from Jason.

Tim's phone beeped. He picked it up faster than he had thought possible and quickly read the text. "Hey, Timbo. What's up?"

Timbo? Really?

"Trying to avoid my Shakespeare, actually. Wbu?"

It took less time for Jason to respond than Tim had expected. Only a few seconds after he sent the text he got a reply. " I'm about to head to work. Working at a library doesn't involve nearly as much reading as I had foolishly hoped. "

Tim snorted. No, it hadn't looked like Jason had gotten any time to read at all yesterday. After he had gotten subtly called back to work (and, sadly, away from Tim), he had seen him many times. Whenever they were in the same area of the library, Jason would shoot him little smiles or random silly faces. Tim could tell that Jason was really just trying to make him laugh loud enough to bother the other patrons (like the utter asshole he was), but Tim couldn't help feeling sort of special every time Jason made a rude gesture in regards to his co-worker and apparent boss.

"No job is as glamorous as it seems. Sucks."

"And what kind of non-glamorous jobs have you worked?"

Tim wasn't sure if Jason was being judgmental or skeptical because Tim was rich or if he was actually just curious if Tim had ever worked. That’s why he kind of hated texting. No body language, no tone of voice, no real cues of any kind. He hoped it was the latter possibility, but he wasn't sure he could blame him if it was the first. Still, it's frustrating when everyone applies Hollywood stereotypes to real life people.

" I currently work for the school's IT department, actually. Before that, I did freelance photography, which isn't as great as it sounds. Especially since it involves people. I don't like people."

" Dude, rly? Do you work at all this afternoon? Bc I got a ton of viruses on my laptop and I've been meaning to head down there to get it dealt with. "

Tim raised an eyebrow, but he couldn't help but smile. That text implied that Jason wanted to see him. Today, even.

"Yeah, actually, from 3 to 10."

"I get off at 4 2day. I'll be there by 530."

Tim's eyes widened. What? What the actual what? Jason was coming to see him at work? At work?! Tim's work uniform was not attractive. What the hell was he supposed to do? And why was he low-key freaking out about seeing Jason?

"K. I guess I'll see you then." At least he didn't sound like he was freaking out over text. Maybe texting wasn't so bad after all.

"Awesome. I'm at work now, so I gtg. c u later, Timmy." Oh, lovely. Another nickname. He actually kind of liked it. He only disliked those nicknames when Dick or Damian were giving them to him.

"c ya."

Tim sighed and put his phone away, a small smile on his face. As his eyes caught on his Shakespeare homework, he groaned. At least now he had something to look forward to at work.

After wasting a good long forever pretending to read Romeo and Juliet, he got up and headed towards the bathroom with a comb and some gel. There wasn't anything he could do about khakis and a polo, but the least he could do was fix his hair.

Chapter Text

After hours of being bored at a Library, something that was an entirely new experience for Jason, he finally got off work. He hurried back to his dorm and changed out of his work clothes. Part of him considered dressing to impress, but the logical side hushed those thoughts. There was no reason to get ahead of himself. Jason didn't know Tim well enough to get this excited over him, nor did he have any reason to think that Tim did, would, or could like him in that way in the first place.

He decided that a pair of jeans and another band shirt would suffice. He didn't bother with his unruly hair either. Jason quickly shoved his combat boots on his feet, packed up his laptop, and headed out the door.

When he reached the building where IT Support was located, he checked his watch. 5:05. Between walking home, changing clothes, and walking to the IT building, an hour was pretty good. He took a deep breath and headed into the overly air conditioned building.

It took him a few minutes to navigate through the building to the area where the Support team worked. When he got there, it only took him a second to find Tim. Mostly because Tim was talking on the phone in the most monotone voice Jason had ever heard him use.

"Yes, ma'am, you should see a window pop up. Just follow the instructions as written and it should be fine." He paused for a moment to listen to whatever the woman was saying. "No, ma'am, it shouldn't require any kind of payment. The update for this program is free- It should only take a few minu- Ma'am, if you'd only- I understand that ma'am, but-" Tim stopped talking, letting the woman drone on for a while. He removed the phone from his ear and sighed heavily, before putting it back. "Yes, ma'am," he continued.

Jason felt kind of bad, but he couldn't help but snicker quietly. He'd never seen Tim like this and it was quite hilarious. Watching the man get so frustrated was much funnier than it should have been, and Jason decided that, however bad of a person it made him, he could watch this for literal hours without getting bored.

Luckily for Tim, the conversation only lasted a few more minutes before the woman figured out what she was doing. Jason had to give the guy props: Jason himself would not have been that patient. Not even close. He was actually kind of impressed by how well Tim had kept his cool.

When the woman hung up, Tim leaned forward in his chair, leaning his elbows on his knees and letting his head fall into his hands. He rubbed his eyes and ran a hand through his hair, sighing heavily. Jason tiptoed over to stand in front of his desk and, after making sure he wouldn't laugh, cleared his throat.

Tim jerked his head up, eyes wide and wild. His whole body had spasmed with his surprise, and Jason was immensely proud of himself for having managed to startle Tim so easily. When Tim realized it was Jason, he exhaled a heavy sigh of relief. He relaxed back into his chair and leaned his head back with his eyes closed.

The younger man shook his head slightly. "Should have none it'd be you." He slowly sat back up, fighting a small smile. "How long have you been here?"

Jason gave him a wide grin. "I arrived at precisely 5:05." When Tim rose an eyebrow, Jason's smile only widened. "I'm very punctual, you know."

"Hmm," Tim hummed, still not allowing himself to smile. He gestured toward the laptop case Jason had slung over his shoulder. "Let me see the patient."

Jason snorted but handed over the laptop. "Be gentle, Doc. She's in a terrible amount of pain."

Tim gave him a pointed look, though there was a light of humor in his eyes. "Gee, I wonder why that would be."

Jason shook his head sadly. "She's infected, Doc. A virus, and a terrible one at that."

Tim plugged in the power cord and booted up the computer. "What a shame. Let me just give her a checkup and I'll see what I can do."

Jason nodded solemnly. "Thank you, Doc. I don't know what I'd do without you."

Tim finally allowed himself a smirk. "Probably kill your poor laptop from watching too much porn."

Jason's jaw dropped, and he struggled to find a reply. Tim snickered. The mirth in Tim's eyes didn't help Jason find words, but he managed to force out, "It wasn't porn, Timmy." Tim didn't appear to believe Jason, so he rolled his eyes. "It was anime. I was downloading anime."

Tim immediately gave him a look of understanding. He turned the laptop towards Jason so he could put in his password. "Yeah, that happens. You don't have much protection software, do you?"

Jason shook his head. He hadn't had the time or money to upgrade his laptop like he wanted. He was lucky he even had the dang thing in the first place. He cleared his throat and moved on. "So, what's the diagnosis, Doc?"

Tim gave him a strange look, but he didn't mention it. He looked back down at the laptop in front of him, typing and clicking for a couple minutes. "Dang, Jason."

Jason crossed his arms over his chest. "What's that?"

The corner of Tim's mouth quirked upwards. "There are two things you have a ton of: anime and viruses. Honestly, who needs 500 gig of downloaded anime?"

Jason shrugged. "How many viruses do I have?"

Tim grimaced. "Fifty, at least. Maybe more." Jason whistled in appreciation of his mad virus-gathering skills, and Tim nodded in acknowledgement. "I've never seen this many on one computer before. This would take any other guy in here days to figure out without completely wiping your computer and starting over from the beginning." Jason almost groaned out loud in frustration when Tim looked up at him with the cockiest (and sexiest) smirk he had ever seen in his life. "Luckily for you, Jay, I'm a genius. I can fix this in a few hours and you even get to keep your ridiculous cache of anime."

A smile slowly grew on Jason's face. "You don't say."

"I do."

"Is that wedding bells I here?" Neither Jason nor Tim had said that. They both looked up and over to where one of Tim's apparent coworkers was standing, looking like he felt more awkward by the second when neither of them laughed. "Okay... I guess not."

Tim rolled his eyes. "What's up, Luke?"

The guy, whose name was apparently Luke, swallowed saliva before speaking. "Well, the thing is, Tim, um, there's this one client who, um, happens to be having a certain problem and I, uh, I'm-"

"Luke, get to the point. This is a sprint, not a meander." Tim didn't look happy. In fact, Jason thought he looked irritated enough to smash the guy's hard drive or something.

Luke got real sheepish, but he managed to rush out, "A lady is having a problem with her laptop and I don't know what to do to fix it."

Tim sighed. He muttered, "Figures," and stood up. He turned to Jason and shook his head. "Sorry, Jason. This will probably only take a minute or so, judging by the kinds of problems Luke usually can't figure out on his own," he shot a scathing look towards Luke, who looked ready to pee his pants. "I promise I'll get right to work as soon as I finish doing his job for him." Then he stomped off to Luke's desk, Luke following behind him like a kicked puppy.

Damn. Tim was hot when he was mad.

From where Jason was sitting in the client's chair in front of Tim's desk, he could hear everything Tim and Luke said if he paid attention, and if he strained his neck he could see them. Luke was making very large, complicated hand gestures as he floundered about for words to explain the problem to Tim. Halfway through his explanation though, Tim just held up a hand to silence him and went to work. It only took him a couple minutes to figure out and solve the problem the computer was having, and he was muttering darkly the whole time. When he finished, he stood up, gave the client a tight smile, gave Luke a murderous glare, and strode back over to his own desk. He plopped down in his chair with a sigh.

At Jason's half-amused, half-concerned look, Tim ran a hand through his hair and shook his head. "Sorry about that. I'm usually better at keeping my cool, but Luke has been working here for a couple months now and he barely knows a thing about computers in the first place. I'm pretty sure the only reason he still has a job is because I keep doing his for him. He keeps making rookie mistakes, like the amateur he is, and I keep covering for him and fixing whatever problem he probably just made worse." When his little rant was over, Tim sank back into the cushion of his chair and looked down at the laptop. "On to the interesting stuff."

"Interesting?" Jason figured Tim probably didn't want Jason to comment on the frustration that was Luke's lack of IT prowess, so he helped Tim change the subject.

"Yeah. Very interesting. It will actually be a bit of a challenge to fix your computer without wiping it. I haven't had a real challenge in a while."

"That's right. You're a computer genius." Jason was smiling quietly to himself, observing the younger man. Tim was obviously in his element with the computers, but he also seemed to be out of his element when it came to people. Coworkers and customers didn't seem to be his thing. Apparently, Tim wasn't one of those people who lived for the customer service type jobs.

Tim nodded. "Hacked into NASA when I was 9, hacked into the Pentagon when I was 12, and a whole bunch of other stuff in between. Everybody here knows I'm the best one here, and at some point they all end up asking me for help." He tossed a pointed glare over his shoulder. "Nobody's quite as bad as Luke, though."

Jason considered what Tim had said, trying not to look too impressed. "So what's a rich computer genius doing working for IT Support?"

Tim snorted. "I ask myself that all the time..." He shook his head. "I was bored, and I wanted something to do."

Jason raised an eyebrow. "Really?" When Tim nodded, Jason shook his head. "Not buying it. If you were just bored, you'd hack into some other top secret organization or solve cold cases in your spare time or something. Working at IT isn't any less boring than not working."

Tim gave him a considering look before he seemed to relent. "Fine." He hesitated for a moment. "Everything I have either came from Bruce's money or my parent's money. I wanted to be able to do something for myself. Not to prove that I can or something, because I know I'm capable. I'm just tired of living off of somebody else's work. I wasn't doing anything for myself. I'm in college. It's time to start acting like an adult. I'm going to be one soon enough anyway."

Jason contemplated Tim's words. They made sense, and Jason could see where he was coming from, even if he couldn't relate. "I guess that's a pretty darn good reason there, Timbo."

Tim just nodded and went back to working on the laptop. In a few minutes, he looked back up at Jason. "This is going to take at least three hours. Do you want to stay or do you have stuff you need to do?"

He thought about it for a moment, but Jason knew staying there would be more enjoyable than anything he could do somewhere else. He enjoyed Tim's company, and he wanted to remain in it for a little while longer if he could. "I think I'll stay." He gave Tim a teasing look. "Have to make sure you won't spill coffee all over my laptop."

Tim rolled his eyes. "Whatever you say, Jason."

They lapsed into silence. Jason had had the forethought to bring a book with him, so he got comfortable and dove into a new story. He had pretty much lost himself in the words when Tim spoke about 30 minutes into Jason's visit. "Hey, Jason?"

"What's up, Timbo?"

Tim gave him a funny look, probably because of the random nicknames Jason kept giving him. "Remember when you offered to help me with my Shakespeare?" Jason nodded. "Well, I have another class on Friday, and I know you said you're off tomorrow, so I was wondering if that might be an okay time to get together?" When Jason didn't respond immediately, Tim said, "I know it's last minute and-"

"Timmy."

"You probably have something to do, or you just might not want to spend your day off tutoring someone-"

"Timmers."

"So it's totally okay if you can't or don't want to or-"

"Tim!"

Tim finally stopped talking and looked up at him from the keyboard he'd been focusing on. "Tim, tomorrow is perfect. I've got nothing to do, I never have a problem with talking about Shakespeare, and," Jason gave him a grin, "even if I did, it would be totally worth it to hang with you."

Jason wasn't certain, but he was pretty sure Tim's ears were redder than tomatoes.

"Oh, okay. Cool. Where works best for you? The library, your place, my place, a place to eat-"

"Tim." When he stopped talking, Jason started. "Your place probably works best. Roy will be at my place all day, which does not make for an environment conducive to studying, at this point I have no desire to be in the library when I don't have to be, and a place to eat would probably be too loud and I don't want to risk getting the books dirty or something."

Tim opened his mouth, closed it back, hesitated, and then nodded. "Yeah, okay. Wayne Manor it is, then. Does 4:00 work for you?"

Jason nodded. "Four is perfect. One problem, though."

"What's that?"

"I don't know where Wayne Manor is, and I don't have a car. Can I get there via public transportation?"

Tim snorted. "No. No, you cannot. I have a class at 2:30, so I'll be on campus around then anyway. I'll just pick you up, and I can bring you back later."

Jason's first thought was a refusal, but he reconsidered. While he didn't like the idea of relying on somebody for a ride and therefore being effectively stranded, it would be kind of nice to ride in a car with Tim. And it would be cheaper. And he really wanted to hang out with him. "Okay, if you're sure."

Tim nodded. "I'm sure."

"Well, okay then." They smiled at each other. Then Tim returned to the computer and Jason to his book.

Only a small amount of time passed before Tim stopped messing with the computer and leaned back in his chair. Jason glanced up at him. "Done already?"

Tim snorted. "Nope." He raised his arms over his head and arched his back, stretching his muscles like a cat. "The program that will remove the viruses is running. At this point, there isn't anything I can do to speed up with process short of writing my own version." He paused, tilting his head and squinting his eyes into the space above Jason’s head. "Huh. Maybe I should do that." He shrugged and relaxed back into his chair.

His eyebrows wrinkling, Jason put his book down at gave Tim a once-over. "You're weird."

Tim smiled. "Thanks, bro. Why am I weird?"

Jason shrugged. "I don't know; you're sitting here cleaning my laptop’s figurative intenstines and contemplating writing some computer program." He shot him a reading grin. "Most rich kids don't get a job in IT."

Tim returned the smile. "Mostly street kids don't memorize Shakespeare. What's your excuse?"

"Before I learned how to protect myself, I used to hideout in libraries when I was a kid. A librarian took pity on me and taught me how to read. I've been doing it ever since. I started reading Shakespeare so I could trick other people into thinking I was educated." Jason cracked his knuckles lazily as he spoke. "Didn't expect to like it so much." He ignored Tim's expression, mostly because he couldn't read it. "What's your excuse?"

Tim broke eye contact and stared down at his hands. "Bruce taught me a lot of stuff about computers when he was helping me catch the guy who killed my parents. We wouldn't have gotten half as far as we did without some of those programs we used. I liked learning about it and I was good at it, so I kept it up. Somewhere along the line, I decided I wanted to help create more programs to catch criminals faster, and to make sure nobody innocent gets locked up in their place. That's why I'm majoring in Computer Science and Forensics." He looked up at Jason, making eye contact again. The sad look in his eyes changed to a mask of indifference. "I already know pretty much everything they'll try to teach me, but if I don't have the credentials to back up my genius, then nobody will take me seriously."

Jason took in everything Tim told him, nodding solemnly. "I changed my mind, Timmy. That's not weird at all."

Tim smiled at him. "And your reasons for reading Shakespeare are completely understandable. Liking it though..." Tim's grin turned sharp. "That's still pretty weird."

Jason couldn't help the wide smile that stretched his lips. "Whatever you say, Timmers."

Chapter Text

Jason was most definitely not nervous. He was excited to see Tim, definitely, but certainly not nervous. There was nothing to be nervous about. Tim was picking him up at his dorm, taking him to his house, they were going to spend a lot of time together, probably alone, and then Tim was bringing him back home.

Nothing about that was remotely date-like.

So how come Jason spent the whole time he was getting ready to leave feeling like he was going on a date? What he wore, how he did his hair: everything was exactly how he would do it if he was going on a date. He didn't even pack any books to read. Well, he packed a bag with his copies of a few different Shakespearean works, but that wasn't for recreation or to be used as an escape from social situations, so that didn't really count.

He ended up being completely ready to go with over an hour left of time to kill. He decided to suck it up and spend that time doing some more last minute research and beginning to write his paper for his journalism class. Though he had several other classes at the same time, including another one that morning, none of them really had homework, and any assigned reading Jason had accomplished fairly quickly. He hadn't realized how lucky he was to have such a high reading speed until he got to college.

It happened again that he got so lost in his research paper that he didn't watch the clock. He was actually really surprised, and grateful, that it had managed to distract him from his previously incessant thoughts about Tim and their impending study date. Er- study session. Not a date. At all.

If only...

Jason was glad that he had had the foresight to set an alarm on his phone for the time that Tim would arrive outside the dorm. Tim was perfectly punctual, sending Jason a text announcing his arrival seconds after Jason turned off the alarm on his phone. He smiled at his phone before rolling his eyes at the ridiculous amount of cheesiness that he was exuding like sweat from his pores. Then he picked up his messenger bag and strode out the door, down the stairs, and right up to Tim's car. Jason was surprised and not surprised at the same time to see that Tim didn't have any kind of fancy car. It also wasn't really all that sporty. It was a simple 2005 black Tahoe, in good condition for it's age. When Tim unlocked the car and Jason climbed in, he saw that Tim took even better care of the inside than he did on the outside.

Jason also noticed that, while the car itself was simple enough as far as make, model, age, etc. went, Tim had way upgraded the inside. A special radio with a screen, designed for music videos and easy song selection but ended up getting mostly used for watching movies on car trips, an iPod doc hidden in the glove box, nice leather seats with seat warmers, etc. Jason figured the engine was just as upgraded. Tim might not be showy, but he enjoyed quality. Bigger, or better, on the inside, Jason guessed, was the way Tim looked at things.

Tim smiled at Jason as he plopped down in the passenger seat. "Welcome aboard."

A grin stretched Jason's lips as he nodded in reply. He dropped his bag on the floorboard between his feet and buckled his seat belt. "Thanks, Captain. And thanks for the ride."

Tim looked back at the road, but his smile didn't leave his face. As they pulled away from the curb and headed back onto the busy streets of Gotham City, Tim said, "I only know a couple of the bands you like, but you seem to have pretty good music taste so far. Play whatever you'd like."

Jason felt something mushy inside warm up at the huge amount of trust Tim must have in Jason to allow him to pick the music. Smirking at the thought, he decided to play it safe and play an album from one of the bands Tim had seen him wear merch for. Tim nodded his approval and they drove in silence for a little while.

"How far is Wayne Manor from GCU?" Jason didn't actually care much, except that he liked to have a good idea of where he was so he could make a hasty escape if needed, but he asked mostly because he just wanted to talk to Tim.

"It's a good couple of miles away - we should get there soon. It's a good distance for running, if you're a fan." Tim glanced over at him, a humorous grin on his face. "I drive my car, so clearly I'm not one."

Jason took that moment to take a good look at Tim's physique. He hadn't really noticed before, not caring much, that Tim was actually pretty well built. He was short, and he wasn't exactly thick, but Jason could see long cords of muscles beneath the nerdy button up he was wearing. Tim was strong but lean, and Jason doubted he could get those muscles without devoting a portion of his regular routine to working out.

Jason got so caught up in admiring the view that he didn't notice that Tim had noticed. "What are you looking at me like that for?"

Jason snapped out of his thoughts and looked up into Tim's eyes, frozen in embarrassment from being caught in the act. "Um..., I was just..." Shit, Jason, say something. Anything really, except for the truth. Telling Tim that he was admiring how hot his muscles were probably wasn't the wisest thing to tell a new friend (they were friends, right?) on the way to his house for a study session when you didn't even know their sexuality or if they were even interested. "I was just observing the fact that your lack of running doesn't seem to have had any consequences. So far."

Tim snorted, but Jason thought he might have seen a blush on his cheeks as he turned back to face the road. "Well thank goodness for that. I'd hate to think all those salads were in vain."

Jason grinned. "They weren't. Trust me."

Yeah, Tim was definitely blushing.

They continued to chitchat for a little longer until they reached the gate to the Wayne's property. Tim punched in the code to the gate and drove on through. Jason kept waiting for the driveway to end, but it just kept going. "Geeze, Tim, how the hell long is your driveway? 10 miles?"

Tim chuckled. "It's only a quarter mile, Jay. Don't be ridiculous."

Jason rolled his eyes and mumbled, "Only a quarter mile, my God." He could tell Tim had heard him, but the younger man didn't say anything or move his eyes from the road.

After a small forever, Wayne Manor finally came in sight. Jason's mouth ran dry at the grandeur of it. Three stories high, perfect condition, real fancy, what appeared to be a nine-car garage, etc. Stereotypical billionaire mansion, no big deal right?

"Your mouth's open, you know."

Jason startled, jerking his head around to look at Tim. "Uh," he said, before realizing the smartest thing to do would be closing his mouth and pretending he wasn't fazed at all. Or, at least, that would be the smartest thing for his pride.

Tim pulled into the garage and parked. They hopped out of the Tahoe, but before they could reach the door to the rest of the house, it opened. Jason's first thought was that the house was haunted. Then he mentally slapped himself out of disgust at his stupidity. Obviously, the door had not opened of its on volition, but in response to the actions of an elderly man in a very nice suit. An elderly man who appeared to be a butler...

Really? A fucking butler?

Jason hadn't meant to say that out loud, but when Tim started cracking up, he realized he had. "Yes, Jason, a butler. But he technically is Bruce's butler." Jason swiveled his head around to look at him, giving him a disbelieving look with his eyes wide. "And he doesn't approve of that kind of language, so watch your dirty fucking mouth, Jason."

Out of the corner of his eye, Jason saw the butler smirk, which perfectly matched Tim's expression. Jason rolled his eyes and crossed his arms. The butler's smirk quickly morphed into a look of complete innocence and submission. "My name is Alfred, Master Todd, but you may continue to refer to me as 'The Butler' if you'd prefer."

Tim was doing everything in his power to conceal is snickering, but he was failing miserably, and Jason absolutely refused to blush. He swallowed sheepishly and nodded. "Alfred it is. Sorry about that, sir."

Jason thought the corner of Alfred's mouth quirked up, but he must have been mistaken because a half-second later the butler looked as impassive as ever. Alfred nodded and motioned the way through the door. Tim went first, and Jason followed in his footsteps as closely as possible, wary of what kinds of crazy things were sure to great him in the interior.

"Welcome to Wayne Manor, Master Todd."

Chapter Text

Jason was pleasantly surprised to find that the inside of Tim's home was fairly normal, albeit a little extravagant. It didn't really feel much like a home to him, though. It didn't really look lived-in or home-y. It looked like a museum, not somebody's house of many years.

Jason looked over at Tim, only to find that Tim was already looking at him, a questioning look on his face. He was probably wondering how Jason was going to react to the internal grandeur of Wayne Manor. Jason figured he'd been enough of an embarrassingly awkward poor kid for one day, so he played it cool. "Nice house, Timmy." He saw Alfred's eyebrow raise in his periphery at the nickname, which Jason noted for later. "Where would you like to study?"

Tim didn't move for a second, clearly a little surprised at Jason's sudden lack of a dramatic reaction, but he quickly moved on to better, more important things. "It depends on how much you want to be interrupted. My room means pretty much no interruptions. The library means near constant interruptions once Dick and Bruce get back from GCU and and the demon brat gets back from school." Jason's eyebrows shot up at 'the demon brat'. Tim saw and elected to explain. "Damian Wayne, the Little Prince of Wayne Manor and Heir Apparent to the wealth of Lord Bruce Wayne of Gotham." Jason's eyebrows did not recede from his hairline. Tim sighed. "The little runt is Bruce's only biological kid, Dick is too stubborn to accept any inheritance from Bruce anyway, I have enough money as it is, and neither of the girls are interested either. Damian gets the pot."

Jason was little a less confused (and a bit more concerned) than he was before the explanation, but he gave his tired forehead muscles a rest and relaxed his eyebrows. They'd been jumping up and down all day, so he figured they deserved a break. "Do you have a desk in your room?" Jason quickly realized that was a stupid question. Tim was a computer nerd and a billionaire. Of course he had a desk. "Never mind. I'm pretty certain you do. That works for me. If it works for you, of course."

Tim snorted and starting walking away. He took the stairs up a flight to the second floor, Jason following him. "I wouldn't have offered it as an option if it didn't work for me. I prefer it, actually." Jason couldn't decide if Tim preferring they work in his bedroom was only odd because Jason liked dudes and was interested in Tim or if it was just weird in general. Either it was weird in general or Tim also liked dudes, because Jason saw the back of his neck turn a bit red as he quickly explained, "The library, despite what the name would imply, isn't actually half as quite as my room, the chairs, while comfortable, aren't the most efficient thing for accomplishing anything but reading or napping, and that's where Dick and Bruce do ninety percent of their work and studying when they're home." He looked over his shoulder, and Jason saw that his cheeks were a bit red as well. "My room is a sanctuary."

Jason thought he might have heard Alfred snicker at his words from the bottom floor, but when he looked down he didn't see the man anywhere. He shook his head to rid it of the thought and turned back around, nearly bumping into Tim, who had stopped at the top of the staircase. "You heard it, too?" the younger man asked. Jason guessed that he was referring to the sound of amusement potentially uttered by Alfred, so he nodded. "Damn," Tim muttered, shaking his head wistfully. He turned back and continued from the top of the stairs down the hall to his room. "Alfred is a fricking ninja. You won't ever catch him making any sound or expression beyond innocence, boredom, or possibly irritation, at least not with any definitive proof. Not unless he's mad. If he's mad," Tim paused for dramatic affect and looked at Jason over his shoulder, "run. Run for your life, because it will depend on it."

Jason resisted the temptation to raise his eyebrows again. He settled for nodding solemnly. Tim opened the door to his room and stepped inside, dropping his messenger bag by the desk against one wall and kicking off his shoes. "Mi casa es tu casa," he said without turning around. He plopped down on the bed, motioning for Jason to take the desk chair, which actually looked hella comfy.

Jason set his bag down and sat on the chair, which was just as comfy as he had thought. He pulled out his copy of Romeo and Juliet. "So, how would you like to go about this? Any particular questions you have or anything?"

Tim shrugged and shook his head. "Not really. Honestly, despite your enthusiasm for the subject, I'd rather just BS as much of this class as I can and get it over and done with as little effort as possible. You know what I'm saying?"

Jason huffed something that was a cross between a laugh and a sigh. "Figures. Would you like me to help you get the basics or something or what?"

Tim smiled. "Just tell me something that will impress my professor or something? I may pretty much hate Shakespeare, but I'm still a bit of a teacher's pet. All of my professors have only nice things to say about me, and that was true for high school, too. I'd like to continue the pattern."

Jason thought for a moment, trying to come up with something that most people wouldn't know just from watching the play or movie version or from looking up the synopsis online. He smiled when he thought of something, hoping Tim's professor wasn't one of the many idiot teachers who taught on the subject without actually knowing this particular fact. "You know that balcony scene in Romeo and Juliet?"

Tim nodded with a weary expression. "How could I not? 'Romeo, Romeo. Wherefore art thou, Romeo?'" Tim made a squeaky feminine voice and flailed his arms around dramatically. "It's probably one of the most recognizable scenes from any play ever. The only competition is probably 'To be, or not to be?'"

Jason tried to contain his smile - to no avail. "Maybe don't try out for theater, Timmers."

Tim rolled his eyes. "Whatever, Jason. What about the scene?"

Jason's eyes lit up. He loved being an English nerd. "Well, Timmy," he said, in his most patronizing tone. "Everybody thinks that, 'Wherefore art thou,' means 'where are you'. It doesn't. It actually means, 'Why are you'. People think it's weird that she asks where Romeo is and then goes on this long monologue about what's in a name, but its only weird because it's misinterpreted. Just like the word 'therefore' doesn't actually mean 'there', 'wherefore' doesn't actually mean 'where'."

Tim had looked extremely confused at the beginning, but by the end of Jason's explanation he had understood. "I can't believe I didn't figure that out myself. It's actually kind of obvious now that I think about it in terms of 'therefore'." He made a pouty expression. "Now I feel kind of stupid."

Jason smirked. "Don't worry. Ninety percent of English teachers don't even figure it out. Your professor should be impressed. If he isn't, that means that he didn't know that either and he feels stupid, so he won't show how impressed he actually is."

Tim nodded solemnly. "Logic. You have some. I like it."

Jason couldn't help but laugh. "Uh, thanks, Timber."

The younger man wrinkled his face up. "Where do you come up with all these nicknames?"

Jason shrugged and smirked, leaning back into the comfy chair. "I make them up as I go, mostly. I'm just witty like that."

Standing up, Tim went to get his bag from beside the desk. This brought him actually pretty close to Jason, but he did his best to ignore the proximity (though he did smell pretty good). Tim fished out his phone and his own copy of Romeo and Juliet before going back to the bed. He flopped on his stomach and propped his upper body up on a pillow, the book out in front of him and the phone thrown haphazardly somewhere on the bed. He sighed and looked back up at Jason. "I honestly don't know how you can enjoy this stuff."

Jason thought about it for a moment, but he couldn't really pin his reasons down himself. "I don't really know either, Timbo. I just kind of do." Tim looked dissatisfied with that answer, but he didn't press for a better one. "Why don't you like it?"

"Ugh," Tim groaned out in distaste. "It's so... familiar? I guess, I just kind of got tired of reading the same old plots wrapped up in different characters and time zones that I just didn't want to deal with any more of it. I saw the play, I saw a bunch of the movie versions, and I've read a million books with pretty much the same plot. When I finally got around to reading the original, it just seemed," Tim paused for a moment, trying to find the right word, "redundant."

Jason nodded. "Shakespeare actually stole a lot of his plot ideas from other people and works; he’s just the most popular. But I can see that, I guess. I've never seen any of the plays, never had any opportunities to watch a movie, and I guess I started reading Shakespeare before I got around to the copy-cat novels. That might be why I love it but you're tired of it."

Tim's eyebrows shot up in surprise. "You've never seen the play for Romeo and Juliet?" Jason shook his head. “And you've never seen any of the movie versions?" Jason confirmed it. Tim rolled over onto his back, arms and legs spread out in a starfish-like position. He stared at the ceiling as though it contained the answers to life's deepest mysteries. "Good lord, you poor thing."

Jason was about to assure Tim that his life really wasn't all that bad, at least not because he hadn't seen a play or whatever, but Tim jerked to his feet before he could say anything. Tim stomped over to him and stood in front of him, bringing his face very close to Jason's with the fiercest look of intensity Jason had seen in years. "I'm taking you to see Romeo and Juliet. And you will see at least one movie version before you leave here tonight." At Jason's slack-jawed look of half-fear, half-bewilderment, Tim smirked. "Deal with it."

Jason forced himself back into action. "Tim, that's really not necessary. I mean, you need to study and-"

"No," he interrupted. He grabbed Jason's chair, spinning him around and pushing the chair out of the way. He turned on his desktop computer, which, Jason noted with satisfaction, was not a mac. Jason hated macs. They were unnecessarily confusing and difficult.

Tim thumped his fingers against the desk rhythmically, impatient with the computer despite how quickly it was actually loading. Tim had seemed pretty chill in the short time that Jason had known him, but this knew side of him was just a little scary. Jason kind of loved it. Pushy and bossy suited him well, especially when it seemed to come from some sort of deranged concern for Jason.

When the computer was finally booted (Jason merely used the word finally in order to represent Tim's impatience and his eventual relief when the computer was on, but it only took a few seconds), Tim opened an internet browser and searched for a movie. He clicked a link that was apparently for the movie he was looking for and paused it before it had gone more than a few seconds. He turned quickly to face Jason, a triumphant smile on his face. "You get comfy. I'll go get snacks." And with that, Tim rushed out of the room.

Jason wasn't really sure what to do, as the chair was already pretty comfortable to him, but he noticed that the room was a little chillier than he usually preferred, so he got up and grabbed a throw blanket he saw lying around. He turned the chair so it was properly facing the computer, making sure to leave enough room for Tim, though he didn't know where he would get another chair. Jason sat down and fitted the blanket over himself, making sure he was as cozy as possible.

It wasn't too long after that that Tim popped back into the room. He was pushing a rolling chair that looked almost as comfortable as Jason's, and it was piled high with popcorn, drinks (mostly soda), and assorted candy. Jason really didn't know where a majority of it came from, nor could he figure out just how Tim had managed to collect it all so quickly. He suspected Alfred had a hand in it all, but he wasn't certain, and he honestly didn't care much.

It was pretty easy not to care about such insignificant things when Tim Drake was smiling at him like that.

In a matter of seconds, Tim had pushed the chair over to the desk, close enough to Jason's chair for them to be touching. He un-piled the assorted snacks and drinks onto the desk, surrounding the keyboard in an impressive display. He then plopped down in his chair and wrapped his own blanket around himself, much as Jason had done. He looked over at Jason and winced slightly when he saw Jason's blanket. "Sorry it's so chilly in here. I actually hate the cold, but I like blankets and sweaters, so I keep it cold enough that I can snuggle." Jason couldn't keep his eyebrow from raising or the corner of his mouth from tilting up in a small smile at how adorable that was. Tim seemed to notice and his cheeks turned red.

The younger man quickly cleared his throat and turned to look back at the computer screen, obviously trying to get away from the previous subject. He reached an arm out from his blanket cocoon and used to mouse to play the movie. The opening scene played and Tim generously distributed the snacks between them. Jason got a large helping of popcorn and an assortment of sour patch kids and gummy bears. Tim had less popcorn and more sugary snacks, but Jason figured he probably needed that many to make it through the whole movie, considering he had already downed a good number of them by the time the first few scenes were through.

Jason was having a very hard time focusing on the movie. It was interesting, for sure, and he really did want to see the movie, but Tim was right next to them, and the close proximity of their chairs meant that their knees were touching, and Tim, despite the fact that he didn't like Shakespeare, seemed completely enraptured by the movie. His eyes were wide, and he never once looked away from the screen. Though Jason would always prefer books to movies, he couldn't help but want to watch as many movies as possible with Tim just to see if he always looked so focused.

The movie was almost half way over when the door suddenly flew open. "Hey, Tim! How ya doing, buddy?"

Both Jason and Tim jerked their heads to the side, staring up at the intruder with wide eyes. Tim's shocked expression quickly morphed into one of utter annoyance as he paused the movie. "Dick, you ass, ever heard of knocking?"

The man in the doorway, who was either Tim's older brother, Dick, or a different guy that Tim had decided to call a dick, had his own look of surprise on his face, but it soon turned into a grin that was just downright creepy. "Tim, is that a friend? Do you have a friend? In your room?" The grin got wider. "Are you two watching a movie?" He took a second to observe the computer screen. "Oh my gosh, are you guys watching Romeo and Juliet? That's awesome! Tim, I didn't know you had a," he suddenly lowered his voice, like he was telling them a secret, "boyfriend."

Jason was too stunned by the strangeness of it all to answer, so he just stayed quiet and looked back over to Tim, whose face was tomato red with barely controlled rage. "First of all, Dick, yes, he's a friend. You don't have to be an asshole about it. Second of all," his tone escalated from one of quiet anger to a near yell, "yes, that is Romeo and Juliet. We were actually enjoying it quite a lot, before some annoying little shit decided to interrupt us. Third of all, no." Tim stood up to his full height, which really wasn't very tall at all, but it looked rather intimidating when coupled with the expression of rage on his face "He is not my boyfriend. I don't have a boyfriend. Now go the fuck away!"

Dick (Jason had decided that he was, in fact, Tim's brother) looked slightly stunned for a moment before he grinned again, this one slightly less creepy. "Okay, okay. Whatever you say, Tim. I just wanted to say hi and let you know that Bruce and I are back, but whatever." He didn't look at all upset with how Tim had reacted to Dick's behavior, but Jason figured that was probably because he had enjoyed it.

He took a step inside the room and held his hand out to Jason. "I'm Dick, by the way. Tim's older brother."

Jason nodded and shook his head. "Jason."

Dick's face lit up. "Roy's roommate?" When Jason nodded again, his eyes filled with mirth. "So your’re the guy Tim spilled coffee all over. Nice to finally meet you. I've been longing for this day."

Jason smiled vaguely, fondly recalling the incident. When he looked over at Tim, however, he saw the mortification written plainly across his face, and his smile vanished. "Yeah, well," he said to Dick over his shoulder, "it really wasn't that big a deal." He smirked and made eye contact with Tim, who looked slightly less embarrassed. "I didn't really like that shirt anyway."

When the two looked back at Dick, they saw an expression that neither could quite read. While Tim seemed to recognize it as something unpleasant, judging by the groan he made, Jason was mostly just worried. "Anything else we can do for you?" Tim spat out.

Dick shook his head. "Nope. Just checking in." He raised his hands in a symbol of surrender and backed out of the room. "Nice to meet you Jason." He made to close the door, but he stopped before it was fully shut. "Oh, and Tim? Clark and Conner are coming over for dinner tonight. Just thought you might want to be prepared." And with that, the door was shut none-too-gently.

Jason turned back to Tim to see that his previous look of utter irritation had been replaced with something a little less aggravated. "You okay, Timmers?"

He nodded. "Yeah. Sorry about him." Jason just shrugged and didn't say anything else, waiting for Tim to initiate further conversation. After a couple beats of silence and an audible swallow, Tim asked, "Do you want to finish the movie or are you officially done with everything to do with Wayne Manor?"

Jason smiled. "I'd love to finish the movie. And I have nothing against Wayne Manor." His smile turned into a smirk. "Your brother's a dick though."

Tim laughed at the pun and nodded before playing the movie

Chapter Text

When the movie was finished, Jason was quite a bit shocked by how much of the snacks the two of them had managed to polish off. He stood up and stretched his limbs out, arching his back. "That was a good movie, Timmers. I still prefer reading the original script, though."

Tim nodded from the other side of the desk where he was also stretching. "I figured. You're a book person, like me."

"So what now? Do I need to leave so you can get ready to have company over or what?"

Tim actually laughed. "For Clark and Conner? Please. They're pretty much family at this point. I wouldn't clean my room for them if Clark was the President of the United States. No, you can stick around as long as you want."

Jason thought about it. If there wasn't anything to study or a movie to watch, this just might get awkward. Jason wasn’t exactly the best at socializing and maintaining a conversation. But he really didn't want to leave yet. He liked hanging out with Tim, and he wanted to get to know him better. The chances of them having a thing were minimal, but Jason would love to have Tim as a friend. He was smart and funny, and they got along pretty well.

Before Jason could say anything though, the door opened again. "Hey Tim- woah, you have a friend over." Jason wanted to say he was surprised at seeing an entirely different tall guy with blue eyes and black hair bang into Tim's room, but he had figured out by now that only the unexpected happened when one was around Tim Drake.

They guy took a second to survey Jason before smiling and stepping towards him, extending his hand just as Dick had. "Hey, you must be Jason. Tim told me you were going to help him with his Shakespeare. I'm Conner."

Now that Jason knew who this was, he could definitely see the uncanny resemblance between him and Professor Kent. It was almost like he was looking at a younger, cloned version of the professor. "Yeah, that's me. You must be Professor Kent's kid. Tim told me you were a good friend of his."

Conner's smile was warm. "The one and only Conner Kent at your service. Now that you mention him, I do remember my dad telling me that he met you. You made a good impression."

Jason mentally patted himself on the back, but externally he only nodded and smiled. "That's good to know."

Tim cleared his throat, as if reminding the two of them that he was still there. "Conner, I wasn't expecting you guys until dinner time." His tone seemed pointed, and Jason looked over his shoulder to see that Tim was almost glaring at Conner.

The other man only smiled bigger. "It is dinner time, Tim. Alfred sent me up here to get you." He turned to Jason. "Bruce wanted me to tell you that you are welcome to stay for dinner, too."

Jason was about to politely decline with a clichéd 'I don't want to intrude' when Tim spoke up first. "Sorry, Jason, but when Bruce Wayne invites somebody to dinner, if really means that he's holding you against your will until you've eaten your fill of the best food in Gotham City." He gave Jason a meaningful look. "You remember when I said Alfred is a ninja?"

Jason nodded and Conner whistled, nodding solemnly. "Yeah," Conner said. "Good luck getting out of here hungry."

Jason couldn't help chuckling. "Awe, if you guys wanted me to stay for dinner you could have just said so."

Tim rolled his eyes and Conner smiled. "I like this guy, Tim. You sure know how to pick your targets for coffee spills."

The youngest groaned and stomped out of the room. Jason and Conner shared an amused look before following him down the stairs to the dining room. It seemed that everyone else had already congregated. Bruce Wayne sat at the head of the table, with Clark Kent to his right and a small child, approximately seven or eight, to the left. Dick was sitting next to Clark, for some reason, and Tim sighed harshly as he made his way down to sit next to the child, who Jason assumed was Damian, the one that Tim really didn't like. Damian didn't seem too happy about the arrangement either. On the other side of Dick, there was a tall, skinny redhead who was talking to Dick animatedly, flinging his arms about in quick gestures. Conner sat across from the redhead and next to Tim. On the other side of him, there was a girl about the same age as Conner and Tim, who also had black hair and blue eyes, though she appeared to be of Middle Eastern descent as well. While there was another seat at the other head of the table open, Jason didn't even consider sitting there. The only seat that was really an option was the one next to the redhead. He made his way over to the seat, but Professor Kent spoke before he could sit down.

"Hey, Jason, right?"

Jason smiled, not quite shyly, but not the most confident smile of his life. It was safe to say he was not in his comfort zone. "Nice to see you, Professor Kent."

The older man waved his hand dismissively. "Please, call me Clark. It's nice to see you, too." His eyes twinkled with mirth. "When you told me that Tim spilled his coffee all over you, I had a suspicion you two would end up being friends. Glad you could join us."

Jason felt kind of bad for Tim, what with his clumsiness being recalled over and over again. With a quick look, he saw that Tim was staring down at his plate, a cross between exasperation and embarrassment on his face. Jason chuckled.

Mr. Wayne was the next person to speak to him. "Jason, it's nice to meet you. I was impressed by your application for GCU. You showed a lot of promise." Jason gulped audibly, but he managed to keep himself together enough not to embarrass himself.

"Thank you, Mr. Wayne. It's nice to meet you, too." Jason realized he was the only person still standing, so he quickly sat down. Tim seemed to notice his discomfort, because he decided to go ahead and speak.

"Um, Jay, I know you've met Clark, Conner, and Dick, and now Bruce, but this is Damian," he gestured to the kid next to him, confirming Jason's earlier assumption. The kid gave him a dirty look before reverting back to ignoring everyone at the table. "The crazy redhead beside you is Wally West, Dick's 'friend', who's also, for some reason, the only person at the table who doesn't have black hair or blue eyes." Jason couldn't decide if he imagined Tim's odd tone when he said 'friend', as though Wally was indeed not a friend – or more than one – but he decided not to comment. Wally smiled at him and they shook hands. "The girl next to Conner is Cassandra. She's one of my adopted sisters." Cassandra nodded in what seemed to be acknowledgement of him, but it wasn't an unkind gesture.

"Babs is coming later. Work kept her late," Dick said. "Jason, you should probably call her Barbara unless and until she says otherwise."

Jason nodded just as Alfred came in, wheeling a black cart with dishes on it. He distributed the food among the people at the table and announced in his posh British accent, "Dinner is served."

Jason waited to dig in, looking around at everyone else at the table to make sure he followed proper Etiquette of the Rich. He was a little stunned to see that nobody was really eating any differently than normal people. Maybe they were slumming it for him.

Or maybe not, because this Wally guy was really shoving it in there. He was even holding his silverware like a shovel. Talk about class. Then again, Jason couldn't think of any rich people with the name West. Just as Jason decided to go ahead and start eating, Wally decided to speak to him. "So, Jason, do you usually exchange numbers with guys who dump their coffee on you?"

Okay, now Jason was really getting tired of that story. He gave a half-smile anyway. "No, not usually. I ran into him again at the library, and this poor soul needed assistance with his Shakespeare homework. I was generous enough to offer my services," he said, looking at Tim teasingly. Wally laughed, but Tim was already distracted by Damian, who had begun shouting at Bruce, apparently about Clark.

"I still don't understand why the alien is here, but he needs to leave. I am Damian Wayne and I refuse to share a dinner table with such a creature. And as for the clone," the child shot a scathing look at Conner, "he also needs to leave. Immediately. These foul, unnatural creatures are beneath me!"

Bruce rolled his eyes and ignored the child, though Clark seemed to be having a harder time with it. Conner just seemed slightly amused and mostly used to Damian's antics.

"Damian," Dick said, with a Disappointed Parent Voice, "that's not nice."

Damian scoffed. "I'm rich, Dick. I don't have to be nice." The snootiness was strong with this one.

Wally nudged Jason in the arm with his elbow. He whispered to him, "Don't mind Damian. He spent most of his life living with the Wicked Witch of the West, a.k.a. his mother, and she taught him that he was a prince to be worshiped. It's not usually personal, but you should be prepared to be a target."

“So he just hates everyone but his mother?”

"Sort of. He adores Bruce, and for some reason he likes Dick, but he hates Tim with a burning passion, probably more than he hates Clark."

"Huh. Any idea why?"

"Probably because Tim has more money than either of his parents, and Damian likes to pretend he's the richest kid in the world." Wally's face lit up with an idea. "Maybe that's why he likes Dick. Even though he's technically a Wayne, he's dirt poor. He refuses to use Bruce's money for anything. He even paid his own way through GCU with crappy jobs."

Jason whistled quietly. He looked around Wally at Dick, who was trying to calm Damian down. Tim just looked annoyed and was doing his best to ignore everyone at the table, while Conner looked entertained. Jason could tell Cassandra was paying attention, but her facial expression was completely neutral. He focused his attention back on Wally. "What does he do now that he's out of college?"

"Actually, he's still in college. He went straight to a master’s degree after he finished his bachelors. He’s a teacher's assistant, and he also has a part time job at the medical school here in Gotham. He's a standardized patient there."

Jason nodded and mentally added standardized patient to a list of potential jobs if he needed more money or wanted to quit working at the library.

His attention was suddenly redirected when Damian leaped up from his chair and ran around the table to Clark. A can of silly string he'd been hiding in his lap was now aimed at Clark, and the poor guy didn't have enough time to dodge. In seconds, most of his hair was covered in bright pink silly string, and Damian was running circles around the table.

"Damian Wayne, get back here now!" Bruce stood up when Damian did not heed his order, following after him. The two ran around the table twice, Damian just barely staying far enough ahead to not get caught, when Alfred suddenly appeared in the middle of Damian's path. The child stopped, but not quickly enough to avoid falling into Alfred's grasp.

"Unhand me, servant," he spat, kicking his legs and doing everything in his power to twist himself loose. Bruce caught up and took the child from Alfred.

"Thank you, my friend." Bruce dragged Damian back to his seat, setting him down. "You will behave now, son." Bruce's stern gaze was truly frightening, even to a hardened badass like Jason. "If you get up again or say one more rude thing to any of our guests, or if you disrespect Alfred like that again, the punishment will be severe. Do you understand me?"

Jason for sure thought that Damian would ignore his father and continue being a little demon, but the child swallowed and nodded. "Yes, Father."

Damn. Way to parent, Wayne.

Bruce exhaled in relief and took his seat again, looking apologetically at Clark. "I am so sorry, Clark."

Clark merely chuckled, pulling some silly string out of his hair. "Don't worry about it, Bruce. I'm used to it. I like the color, though. Makes quite a statement." Alfred had made his way around the table to stand behind Clark. The butler proceeded to fuss over Clark's hair, trying to get as much silly string out of it as possible.

The table was pretty much silent for a few minutes or so before Wally apparently decided the silence was too much for him, which didn't seem out of character at all. "This food is amazing, Alfred. Well done, as always."

Alfred didn't smile, but everyone could tell he was internally preening at the praise. "Thank you, Master Wally. I do my best."

That apparently broke the silence for everyone, because Wally struck up a conversation with Conner about food, Clark and Bruce were conversing about GCU, with Alfred still cleaning Clark's hair, and Tim and Damian began arguing. After a moment of listening, Jason discovered that Damian had accused Tim of having hairy toes, and Tim was outright denying it. Dick was trying to mediate between the two, to no avail. Jason had never paid enough attention to Tim's feet to notice, so he decided not to contribute for fear of not being accurate in his defense of Tim (of course he wouldn't take Damian's side).

The conversations around him continued for a good portion of dinner. Jason decided to just eat in silence, as he did not share such an ardent love of food with Wally and Conner, there didn't seem to be much merit in getting into Tim and Damian's conversation, and Clark and Bruce were definitely too far away for him to even consider engaging in theirs.

The only other person who wasn't in a conversation was Cassandra, who was keeping entirely silent while eating her food. Though her expression never changed, Jason could tell from her eyes that she was most certainly paying close attention to all the other conversations at the table. She was eating, but with the tiniest of bites. Jason couldn't tell if she was truly interested in what everyone was saying or if she was just the kind of person who always paid attention to everything. He assumed it was the latter, as he didn't understand how any sane person could be so interested by Wally's love of corn dogs and Conner's opinion that corn dogs were one of the most disgusting foods in existence (he preferred food that was actual food, not 'a processed cacophony of animal parts').

Cassandra's attention suddenly shifted from everyone at the table to just Jason, and having those intelligent gray eyes focused on him unnerved him. An expression, possibly concern, temporarily shown in her eyes before it was replaced with subtle determination. She nudged Conner's arm with her elbow, drawing the man's attention. She motioned to him in sign language, something along the lines of, "Help me for a second," before turning back to Jason.

After a moment’s hesitation, she signed, " I'm sorry my family is so crazy."

Conner started to translate, "She said that she's sorry-"

Jason had already begun signing back to her before Conner finished his interpretation. " Don't worry. I'm used to insanity. Granted, it's usually my own insanity ." He smiled warmly at her, pleased by the fact that she had finally made an unguarded expression for the first time since he'd met her. It was one of pleased surprise at the discovery that Jason knew sign language. She smiled back at him as she signed her reply.

" Tim and Damian are always like this, I'm afraid. Bruce has been making them sit next to each other at meals in hopes they'll learn to get along. " She paused for a moment, silent laughter crinkling at the corner of her eyes. "We're all skeptical."

Conner seemed equally pleased to see that Jason knew sign language. He mouthed a silent 'thank you' to Jason, to which he nodded, before turning back to a stunned Wally. In fact, it seemed everyone was stunned, because most of the table was now silent and looking at him. He gulped audibly, and went back to eating his food in order to avoid everyone's gaze.

"Jason," Tim said, his voice soft. "I didn't know you knew sign language."

Jason reluctantly looked up and made eye contact. "Yeah, well, it didn't really come up in any of our conversations." He shrugged flippantly, really hoping nobody would make a big deal about it and he could escape this conversation.

Bruce cleared his throat. "Where did you learn?"

Jason glanced over at Cassandra. Her face was mostly neutral again, but Jason had figured out her minute expressions enough to wager that she was both sympathetic for his plight but curious to know the answer like everybody else. Jason exhaled softly and made eye contact with everyone at the table as he answered Bruce's question.

"When I lived on the streets, there was a younger girl whom all the lowlifes seemed particularly inclined to target. I helped her out as much as I could, and she sort of became like a little sister to me." Jason looked down at his plate, using his fork to push around what little food was left, though he made sure not to tilt his head down so Cassandra could read his lips (he didn’t know if she was deaf or just mute, but he wanted to be considerate either way). "She was deaf, so she taught me sign language."

The table was deathly silent, everyone somberly nodding at what he had said. Jason could tell some of them were feeling sorry for him, but a look at Cassandra showed no pity. Only understanding, and a little bit of gratitude. She signed to him, " Thank you for helping her. That was very kind of you." Jason only shrugged. He didn't think he could reply without his hands shaking.

"What happened to her? The girl, I mean." Jason knew Tim was only curious, but he really was hoping nobody would ask him that.

He cleared the lump in his throat. "I don't know. I haven't seen her since I was 11."

They all had sad looks on their faces, except for Damian, who was just sitting there with a bored expression on his face. Clark looked like he might cry, the poor guy, and Jason was really hoping the mood would lighten soon.

Apparently, God was real and he was answering prayers, because the front door suddenly opened and slammed closed and the sound of hurried high heels could be heard stomping toward the dining room. "Sorry I'm late, everyone. Work was murder. Quite literally. This stupid homicide case is wearing me thin." A tall, attractive redhead in a gray pantsuit and bright red heels strutted her way into the room. She sat down her briefcase and took a seat in the only empty chair at the other head of the table. Then she noticed the somber mood that had taken over everyone in the room. "What the hell happened?" she asked warily.

Dick cleared his throat. "Nothing, Babs. We were all just surprised to learn that Jason speaks sign language." Dick motioned toward Jason, as if the redhead, who Jason now recognized as Barbara Gordon, the head homicide detective for the GCPD who had been all over the news for the last couple months, couldn't have figured out that Jason was the only one at the table she didn't know.

Barbara didn't look as if she believed Dick's explanation, but she was smart enough not to pry. "Oh, that's nice." She turned to Jason, a politely pleased expression on her face. "Nice to meet you, Jason. I'm Barbara. You must be Tim's friend. I heard about you. If laundry detergent didn't get the stain out, try cold water and vinegar. Works wonders with coffee stains, in my experience."

Jason couldn't help but chuckle quietly. Tim was right about this never going away.

Chapter Text

Wally West was satisfied.

He was almost always satisfied when it was Alfred doing the cooking. That man knew what he was doing in the kitchen. He was a food ninja just as much as he was a regular ninja. It was one of the reasons why Wally loved coming over to Dick's house for dinner.

The main reason, though, was Dick, himself.

Dick was so awesome. He was so funny and super smart. He was proud and he was a little shit sometimes, but Wally liked that about him, too. Dick had a genuine desire to help people, too, as shown by his desire to be a social worker. Criminal Justice is a difficult field in itself, but social justice was a particularly difficult and financially unrewarding career. Wally was actually really glad that Dick had elected to put off starting his career until he had gotten his master’s degree. It gave him more time to be free and enjoy his youth before the hard life of a social worker sucked all the energy and joy out of him.

Not to say that Wally didn't think that it was a needed job or a fulfilling career. Between being such good friends with Dick and Roy and knowing people like Bruce Wayne, it would be hard for Wally not to have a certain understanding for how hard the world could be for people without good parents, or any parents, and he had a definite appreciation for the people who sacrificed their time to help the kids who suffered at the hands of the cruel world they all lived in.

But that didn't mean he didn't wish Dick had picked something... happier.

Once everyone had finished dinner, they all dispersed. Jason had collected his stuff and left for the night, Tim driving him home, Damian had been sent to his room since he still wasn't behaving, Conner and Cassandra (the cutest couple ever, in Wally's opinion) were chilling like they usually do, Clark had gone home to get ready for more classes tomorrow, and Babs was getting advice from Bruce about the case she was working on. Meanwhile, Wally and Dick had headed up to Dick's room.

"You staying over, Walls?" Wally knew Dick well enough to know that he wanted him to stay.

"Of course. As if I could pass up on the cinnamon rolls Alfred is almost certainly making for breakfast tomorrow."

Dick chuckled, shaking his head at Wally's undying love for food. They got to Dick's room and went inside, making Dick remember something. "Shoot, Walls. Damian was being a little turd and broke the roll-away bed you usually stay on. We haven't had time to get a new one to replace it." He surveyed the room, taking in the modest desk, queen size bed, and the comfortable chair in the corner. Dick was only living with Bruce until he finished his master’s degree, then he fully intended to get his own apartment. He didn't like depending on Bruce for anything, something that Wally could sort of understand but didn't really approve of. "I'll just sleep on the floor tonight," Dick decided, his internal martyr complex making its regular appearance.

Wally rolled his eyes. "You are not sleeping on the floor in your own home, Richie Rich. I'll sleep on the floor."

Dick crossed his arms stubbornly. "No way. You're a guest."

"Oh please, Dick. I practically live here at this point. I know your mansion better than I know my own apartment."

They both stared determinedly at each other for a good thirty seconds before Dick relented, sighing. "Fine, but you still aren't sleeping on the floor. Neither of us will."

"Then I'll take the chair."

"Nobody is taking the chair, Walls." Dick shifted his weight on his feet. "It's a queen size bed. If you're going to be too stubborn to let me be a good host, then we can share it. We're both skinny enough to make it work."

Wally tried not to let his nervousness show. Wally West sharing a bed with the Dick Grayson, arguably one of the most attractive and most eligible bachelors in all of Gotham City, was not the best idea. Mostly because Wally was hella gay and he'd had a huge crush on Dick pretty much since they'd met.

Still, what was he going to say? 'Nah, Dick, I think I'll just go home instead. I'm too straight to share a bed with my best friend for one night.' Because that doesn't just scream closeted gay.

And the cinnamon rolls, though. Those are important. Those are worth it.

"Okay, Dickie. You're the boss." He gulped noisily, hoping Dick didn't notice.

The two of them went about their nightly routines, brushing their teeth and changing into sleepwear. Wally would have been happy that they had sleepwear at all, except that Dick's was only pajama pants. He slept shirtless, all that glorious, lean muscle on display for Wally to drool over and dream about.

Wally hated his life.

They didn't go to bed right away, because they never do. They stayed up for a figurative forever, actually, talking, playing games on their phones, helping each other with the subjects that they were having a hard time with, etc. Dick had a bachelors in Criminal Justice, but his masters was in Social Work. That wasn't really one of Wally's strong suits, but he was good at the science part of it. He himself was working on a master’s degree in Chemistry, so he was pretty useful.

At one point, Cassandra came in to say goodnight. Wally had been working on his sign language for years, but languages in general didn't really come easy to him. At all. Even still, his consistent practice – and help from Dick and Cassandra – was paying off because he was able to have a pretty decent conversation with Cassandra. She wasn't deaf, so she could understand perfectly fine if he spoke aloud, but she loved it when someone took the time to communicate with her in her own language.

When the two of them finished up their conversation with Cassandra and she left for her own room _ without Conner, to the relief of both boys (they were understandably protective, even with someone as trustworthy as Conner) – Wally had gone back to his textbook, wanting to get some last bit of studying in before they inevitably went to bed for the night.

Before Cassandra came in, Dick had been watching a documentary on social work for one of his classes. When Wally realized that he hadn't played it again he looked up, eyebrows wrinkled in confusion. Upon doing so, he saw Dick looking at him with an unreadable expression. It was actually just a bit unnerving for Wally, who had long ago learned to read pretty much every emotion and thought Dick had. It was a by-product of being best friends since childhood, and the thought that Wally was losing his touch worried him.

"Dick, you okay?" Wally wasn't sure he would get an answer, and he wasn't sure he really wanted one either, but after a few seconds' hesitation, Dick responded.

"You've put an awful lot of effort into learning sign language, Walls."

Wally was no less confused than before. What did that have to do with anything?

Oh god. Please, please, please don't mean that Dick thought Wally had a thing for Cassandra. Please.

"She's your sister, Dick. Might as well be mine, too, so it just makes sense to try, right?" Wally really hoped that explanation covered it, because this was getting a little weird and a lot awkward.

"Really? That's why?" Dick didn't look as though he disbelieved him, but he didn't exactly seem to think that was the whole story either.

"Yeah," Wally said slowly. "Why else would I do it?"

Dick shrugged. "I don't know. It could just be that you're really nice. I wouldn't exactly put it past you to learn a language for pretty much anyone, honestly."

Wally squinted his eyes, his confusion growing. "Okay? So what's the problem?"

Shaking his head, Dick turned his chair back to facing his desk and looked back to his computer screen. "No problem. Not a one. Nope." He popped the 'p', telling Wally that he was most definitely, without a doubt, hiding something.

Rolling his eyes, Wally put down his text book and marched over to stand in behind Dick. "No. We are not doing this." He grabbed Dick's chair and spun it around to face him, placing a hand on the back of it by Dick's shoulder and leaning down to put his face in Dick's personal space. "If you don't tell me what's up then it's going to bother me for a small eternity. So what's bothering you?"

Dick kept his mouth shut and shook his head, refusing to say a word. Wally sighed and resorted to his last measure. The puppy dog face.

Eyes wide and innocent, lips turned down in a small, pouty frown, and overall expression looking downcast and dejected, Wally knew Dick would never be able to resist. Sure enough, after only seconds of eye contact, Dick caved, spewing everything out at once. "You're just a really nice guy, Walls, and it's so sweet that you've put so much effort into learning sign language for Cassandra even though she understands you when you talk and literally nobody minds translating what she says for you, and you're always doing nice things like that, Walls, that's just who you are. You're such a great guy and I love it, that's why I love you, and I just- oh shit," Dick shrank back from Wally, refusing to look him in the eye, apparently displeased with what he'd said.

Wally couldn't imagine why Dick would be upset about what he said. Wally thought it was beautiful. Still, if Dick was going to shy away from Wally, how was he going to kiss him? He raised his free hand and poked Dick's cheek. "Hey, Dickie?"

Dick shook his head, eyes downcast and expression regretful. That just wouldn't do. Wally moved his hand down to Dick's chin, gently coaxing him to turn his head and look at him. When he had finally managed to get Dick to meet his eyes, he smiled. "What was this I heard about you loving me?" Wally asked playfully.

Dick groaned and looked away again. "I didn't mean it like that, Walls. No homo, right? I just meant kind of like a brotherly love. Like family, you know?"

Wally snorted, refusing to let his doubt and insecurity win. "Liar," he said, and then he kissed him.

Dick was unresponsive at first, but Wally was patient, for once in his life. This one thing he wouldn't rush, because if he was wrong, if he had somehow gotten all the signs wrong or misinterpreted them out of wishful thinking, then he wanted to make the best out of this kiss. Just as Dick finally let himself loosen up and enjoy it, Wally pulled away. When Dick tried to follow his lips, Wally smiled triumphantly. "Right, but you don't love me or anything. We're like brothers. No homo at all."

Dick sighed in exasperation, leaning his forehead against Wally's. "Shut up, you sarcastic asshole." Wally decided to comply, but only because Dick kissed him again.

Somehow, Wally thought, as he straddled Dick's hips and ran his hands all over those glorious muscles, he really didn't think sharing that bed tonight was going to be that big of a deal.

(He was right. It was actually totally awesome. Dick was a fantastic kisser.)

Chapter Text

Jason was really happy he hadn't procrastinated as much as he had wanted to. It would really suck if he had, because even after spending a ton of time all week on his research assignment for journalism, he still felt overwhelmed and unprepared. That might have been because he really wanted to do a good job in this class, but he was pretty sure it had more to do with a personal attachment to the topic.

Jason was pretty sure there wasn't really much more for him to do. He'd finished his research and had written most of the paper already. The final paragraph was in the works and he had a pretty good idea of what he wanted to say in it, so he wasn't worried about that. He wasn't concerned about the grade either.

Sighing, Jason leaned back in the chair at his standard issue desk in his dorm. He knew what he really was stressing over, if he was being honest with himself, and it wasn't the topic as much as he had thought. He really liked Professor Clark, and he wanted to continue to be liked in return. So far he'd done a good job of making a good impression, and he really didn't want to screw it up because of the topic he happened to get randomly.

Running a hand through his hair, he stood up and moved to the bed. He didn't want to finish yet, since class wasn't until the next day and it was still morning. Jason was a procrastinator, and anything finished could be judged, so he decided to put it off until it wasn't morning anymore. Because mornings sincerely sucked, in his humble opinion.

As he usually found himself doing these days when he didn't want to focus, Jason found his thoughts drifting to Tim. When Tim had driven him home from his house a few days before, the ride home had been as entertaining as the rest of his time at the house. The first minute or so had been silence, but Tim hadn't been able to contain his curiosity.

"I couldn't have predicted the sign language thing in a million years." Jason wasn't really sure how exactly to interpret Tim's tone of voice. It seemed to hover somewhere between curious, impressed, and cautious.

Jason had slowly nodded his head while trying to figure out what kind of answer Tim was wanting and what kind of answer Jason was willing to give him. "I generally give more of a rebel without a cause impression, don't I?"

Tim had snorted softly and kept quiet for a few seconds, and Jason had allowed himself to think that his deflection had worked, but he'd thought too soon. "So that girl..."

"Look, Tim," Jason had interrupted. "I really don't want to talk about her. It was a long time ago and it brings back a lot of bad memories I'd really rather not recall. Maybe one day, but right now, it's just not a good idea for me." He'd looked over at Tim, begging him with his eyes to please let it go, and Tim had nodded, relenting. Jason cleared his throat, hoping the lump would disappear, and changed the subject. "So is Cassandra hearing impaired or what?"

Tim had shook his head, a sad smile on his lips. "No, she's mute. Her dad was..., well, he was pretty messed up. He was abusive beyond most people's imaginations, and, the way Cassandra tells it, he never let her say a word. He kept her home, never let her leave the house or go to school or anything, and she never actually learned to speak. Any time she had tried resulted in a beating that should have meant a hospital trip but only actually meant her asshole father stitching her back up himself when he was in the mood." Tim's voice was tight, like he was still angry at the bastard and wanted to do the guy in himself. His expression softened. "Cassie's tough, tougher than anyone I know, and I'm the proudest guy in the world to be her brother. I love Conner like a brother, but if he don't treat her right, I'll kick his ass into next century."

Jason had raised an eyebrow. "So Conner and her are together? It seemed like it, but I hadn't wanted to assume."

Tim had smiled, apparently pretty pleased about it. "Yeah, actually. Cutest couple ever, if you ask me. They're kind of perfect for each other. Considering he learned sign language for her before they were even a couple, I definitely approve.

Jason had grinned, too, and remembered something Tim had said earlier. "Hey, when you were introducing Wally earlier? You said he was Dick's 'friend'." Jason made air quotes, which felt only a little silly. "What was that supposed to mean?"

Humor had lit Tim's face, but he kept himself composed enough to answer. "So Dick and Babs were high school sweethearts, yeah?" Jason raised an eyebrow but nodded. "They were perfect together, really. Besties since the day they met, Bruce and Commissioner Gordon are good friends, the whole shebang, and everybody thought they'd get married, have too many kids and be the kind of couple that everybody else gets jealous of." Jason kept nodding, though he wasn't really sure where this was going. All he knew for certain was that, obviously, Dick and Barbara broke up at some point.

"Well," Tim had continued, "Dick was also best friends with one Wally West. It's arguable that Dick was actually always better friends with Wally than Babs, and he always spent a ton of time with him. But during the two years that he dated Babs, Dick almost never hung out with Wally at all. They practically never saw each other. One week, Wally practically lived at the Manor, and then Dick started dating Babs and he'd come over maybe once a month, when his uncle, Barry came over for a work thing with Bruce, and he never stayed longer than a couple hours. Nobody's really sure how their friendship survived."

"Okay... So what happened?"

Tim had grinned mischievously. "Well, one of these times that Wally was over, the two got in a huge fight. They were yelling and throwing things. Dick was furious. I mean, absolutely livid. He was so mad, in fact, that he threw a lamp at Wally. It hit him in the head so hard he was unconscious for three hours and Bruce almost took him to the hospital. Dick wouldn't let him though. He moved Wally to his bed, shut and locked the door, and basically worried himself sick and ate himself up with guilt while he waited for the poor guy to wake up. Barry got really worried, almost broke the door down, actually, but Bruce told him to wait, that he wanted to see how this played out, and that he was sure Wally would be fine and that Dick would be reasonable once he'd figured some stuff out."

Jason had been completely enraptured by the story, leaning towards Tim in his seat with wide eyes, hanging on every word. "Then what?"

Tim had obviously been enjoying the attention, but Jason wouldn't hold it against him as long as he finally got to the point of the story instead of dragging it out. "Wally woke up. We could all tell because Dick shouted his name loud enough to be heard. Basically, we figured out later that they pretty much hugged for 2 whole minutes and then talked for a while, all while Barry was banging on the door and yelling for them to open up so he could test Wally for a concussion. They finally opened up, it was determined that Wally did in fact have a minor concussion, and Barry whisked him away for the night, but he was back the next day and nearly every day after that ever since. Dick broke up with Babs the next week, saying they were 'better as friends'. Babs wasn't even upset. She was weirdly understanding about it, considering we'd all always said that if he ever hurt her, we wouldn't have to do anything because she'd kick his ass herself."

Tim had given him a conspiratorial look, immediately making Jason suspicious of whatever he was going to say next. "So everyone's theory, and I do mean everyone, is that Dick and Wally have the hots for each other, Wally was jealous while Dick was dating Babs, they had a fight over nothing important but which escalated because of their strained relationship, and Dick realized he had the hots for Wally when he accidentally knocked him unconscious with a desk lamp. We all know they aren't together, but it's kind of obvious that they've been pining over each other for pretty much forever. We're just waiting for them to figure it out and for one of them to finally make a move."

Jason had laughed, realizing that he had noticed some tension between the two himself. It was about that time that Tim pulled up in front of Jason's dorm building, and both of them sighed almost in sync. "Fantastic story telling skills, Timbo. Thanks for the laugh."

Tim had graciously nodded is acknowledgement of the compliment. "Anytime. I had a good time today. Studying was actually pretty helpful too, even though we didn't do a whole lot of it."

Jason had shrugged, grinning. "I'm just that good, I guess." He opened the door, but he didn't climb out of the car yet. "I had a good time too. Your family's pretty cool."

"Yeah, they are," Tim had agreed. "I'll see you around, yeah?"

Jason had nodded and exited the car, dragging his bag with him. He shut the car and turned away. Tim drove off and Jason climbed the stairs to the apartment.

Jason smiled in retrospect as he remembered later that night when he was falling through the black hole of you-tube videos and he received a text. He'd pulled out his phone to see a single message from Tim.

" THOSE ASSHOLES ARE FUCKING MAKING OUT IN DICK'S ROOM! "

He'd laughed for a really long time.

Chapter Text

On Monday, Jason swaggered into Professor Kent's Journalism class with a confidence he most certainly wasn't feeling. He'd completed his paper the night before, triple and quadruple checking it for grammar and spelling, but he still wasn't sure he was happy with it. Something about it seemed somehow... not enough.

He took a seat more towards the front this time since he wasn't late. Professor Kent was already at the podium and he waved at Jason. "Hey, Jason. How have you been the last couple days?"

Jason smiled. "Pretty good, actually. How about you, Professor Kent?"

He rolled his eyes. "Please, Jason, my name is Clark. I've been really good. Tim tell you about Dick and Wally?" Clark's eyes were alight with joy at the mention of the new couple.

Jason laughed. "Yeah, I'm pretty sure he's told the whole world by now."

Leaning down on the podium, Clark nodded his agreement. "I'm sure he's just very happy for his brother."

"And pleased his theory was right all along."

Clark chuckled softly, giving him a knowing nod. "Yes, definitely that, too." He checked his watch and sighed before looking back up at the class. "Alright, everybody, come to order." He cracked a small smile. "Jimmy, just because you're in the back row doesn't mean I can't see that you aren't paying attention."

Jason chanced a look over his shoulder to see a kid in the back row sinking into his chair, a sheepish grin on his face. Snickering quietly, he turned back to face the front. Clark continued on with the class, reminding everyone of the rules of the previous assignment from the week before. "Now, I'm going to have you all come up here, one at a time, and read your paper out to the class." Jason's eyes immediately went wide, and his throat suddenly got very tight. "Then, the class will attempt to guess your topic." Jason swallowed around the lump in his throat, hoping that Clark wouldn't have time to get to everyone and he'd be one of the lucky students who got out of it. He didn't think that it would be too difficult for people to guess people's topics when they wrote whole papers about them, so he wasn't really sure where Clark was going with this either.

One by one, Clark called on random people throughout the room. They would read out their papers, and, at least half of the time, the class would struggle to figure out what the topic was. Jason was surprised just how many people had failed to follow instructions. Some people had just rambled on with a list of statistics, and some people didn't even have complete sentences. There was one guy who seemed to have just written bullet points. All in all, the class was only able to figure out the topics of about half the class. Clark took notes as he went, but he didn't collect people's papers.

Jason was the second to last person to read his paper aloud. By the time it was his turn, he'd already figured out he had one of the better papers in the class. Complete sentences, good grammar, essay formatting; he had more proper elements of a research paper than anyone else did. He'd figured, hey, this was journalism class, it would probably be a good idea to write a paper that looked like journalism. He'd essentially just written a short newspaper article on his topic.

When he was finished reading his paper, he looked up to see half the class was irritated, and the other half was jealous. Glancing over at Clark, he saw the professor was nodding with a pleased smile. A kid in the third row sighed in what sounded like defeat and raised his hand. Clark nodded his permission to speak and the kid dropped his arm to the desk with a quiet thud. "Human Trafficking," he said, with a look a Jason like he was daring him to tell the guy he was wrong.

Jason swallowed hard and nodded. "Can I sit back down now," he asked Clark. The professor laughed quietly but agreed and Jason hurried back to his seat. Clark wrote down a few more notes on his pad and moved on to the next person, who looked extremely displeased with having to go after Jason.

It's safe to say Journalism class was a bit of a confidence booster that time around.

Everybody finished before the class was over, and Clark didn't offer anything else for them to do, but nobody got up to leave or started talking among themselves. It seemed everyone was just as curious as Jason about what this week's lesson was going to be. Clark raised an eyebrow and the silent class before chuckling to himself. "Who can tell me which pyramid is the tallest in Egypt, and how tall it actually is? In feet or meters, I'm not picky."

Nobody said a word.

Clark waited for what seemed like forever. When nobody could give him an answer, he looked down at his feet for a second before looking back up at the class and smiling triumphantly. "The Great Pyramid of Giza, in what is now called El Giza, Egypt, is the tallest pyramid in Egypt, at 455 feet tall. It is one of the Seven Wonders of the World, and it is most intact of all of them. Its volume is 91.23 million square feet, and its base is 756. It was the tallest building in the world for nearly four thousand years." He took a second to look around at the class, his smile never failing.

"Now tell me, class, why don't any of you know any of these things?" He looked around expectantly, but nobody would answer him. Jason sighed and raised a hand. "Yes, Jason?"

"None of us know this probably because none of us care. We didn't think it was important."

Clark grinned. "But I cared. I cared enough to ask you. I thought it was important."

Jason shrugged. "But we didn't know that."

Nodding, Clark leaned back against the front of the desk off to the side of the podium. "So what you're telling me is that none of you knew what I cared about or what I thought was important?"

Jason hesitated, wanted to find a way to deny that statement, but he couldn't. Sighing, he closed his eyes and nodded in resignation. "Yes, sir, that's what I'm saying."

Clark's smile just grew at the admission, and he stood up from leaning against his desk, seemingly full of energy. "But you all wrote a paper for me this week. I'm your professor and, therefore, the audience for all of your assignments this class." The class nodded. "I'm your audience, and you wrote a paper about a topic for your target audience. And none of you knew what was important to your target audience, you didn't know what they cared about, and you didn't know anything about what they did care about once you found out what it was."

Jason had figured out where Clark was going with this, and he found himself smiling right along with his professor. Clark noticed and his grin only got bigger. "Jason, since you seem the only one willing to answer my questions, who is the student in the back row?"

Jason turned around to see the same kid from the beginning of the class. "His name is Jimmy, sir."

Clark seemed only a little surprised at hearing the correct answer, and his smile became even more pleased. "And how do you know Jimmy, Jason?"

Jason smirked. "You called him out at the beginning of class for not paying attention."

The class laughed, and Clark shook his head as he chuckled. "And what is the most important thing in the world to Jimmy?"

"I don't know, sir."

"Well, did you ask him?"

Jason was going to just answer with a simple 'no', but he got a better idea. He turned around, looked up at Jimmy, and said, "Jimmy, what is the most important thing in the world to you?"

Jimmy's face went beet red, and Jason felt sorry for the guy for getting called out. The kid took a second to think before clearing his throat. "My blog."

Jason turned back to Clark, a mischievous glint to his eyes. "The most important thing in the world to Jimmy is his blog, sir."

Clark nodded his approval. "And what is his blog about?"

Considering whether he should turn back around and ask Jimmy, he just decided to shake his head. "I don't know, sir. I probably should have asked him that earlier, huh?"

Clark nodded his head again, still smiling proudly. "Yeah, you should have. But you're doing pretty well so far." Jason grinned. "Jimmy, what's your blog about?"

"Recent progress in the field of molecular chemistry."

Jason blanched at the thought of the question he knew was coming his way. "Jason, tell me what you know about molecular chemistry."

Clearing his throat to buy time, Jason cracked his knuckles under his desk. "It's chemistry on a molecular level?"

The class laughed, but Clark only cracked a small smile. "So Jason, if you don't know anything about what Jimmy finds important, how could you relate to him, persuade him, or even maintain his attention? You didn't even know what it was he valued ten minutes ago, so if I had tasked you with writing a paper with Jimmy as the target audience, how would you have done so successfully?"

"Well what's the topic, sir?"

"An allegorical style telling of the strong-right perspective on illegal immigration. And let's say that the only thing Jimmy understands in molecular chemistry. How would you get your point across to him if you don't use an analogy that he can understand, relate to, and get behind?"

Jason remained silent.

Waiting for a moment to see if Jason would come up with an answer, Clark merely smiled proudly when Jason didn't. "Tell me, class, what do you think the lesson is for today? Someone other than Jason answer, please; I think he deserves a break." A girl a few rows back raised her hand. "Yes, Bianca?"

"Know what's important to your audience?"

Clark chuckled softly and shook his head. "Any other journalism professor probably would tell you that. In fact, most of you have probably heard something like that in your English Comp 1 and 2 classes. But no, that is not the lesson I have for you today. It's unreasonable to try to guess or assume the values your audience is going to have. No, my advice for you this week is this: know everything you can about everything you can. Research anything you can think of, memorize trivia, ask people questions about what they care about and what they know and learn about whatever their answers are. You can't know what's important to everyone in the world, but once you find out what is important to someone, it's up to you to know enough about it to continue the conversation. And if you don't know, ask them questions. You never know what you're going to need to know, so learn everything. When you came into journalism class today, you didn't know you were going to get asked about a pyramid in Egypt. I didn't google a random factoid to quiz you guys on; I actually knew the trivia, because I used the information when I wrote an article on an important issue."

"Learn things, guys. The only thing you'll find yourself regretting is knowing less, not more."

He let the class stew on that for a moment, watching the faces of every student for reactions. Jason had no idea what expression was on his face, because he really just wasn't paying attention to it. Jason hadn't really thought about whether or not seemingly useless trivia could come in handy for writing or journalism. After he got his GED, Jason had brushed up on some different things while preparing for college. He'd purposefully paid as little attention to the sciences as he felt he could get away with because he didn't enjoy it and wasn't studying it. He figured he wouldn't really need to know how binomial nomenclature worked in biology, and he had thought that anything he did need to know he could just google. So much for that theory.

Clark cleared his throat to regain the class' attention. "This week's assignment is to write an essay on your topic, minimum 3000 words, maximum 5000. You are to write about the perspectives on your topic. If it's a social issue, write about two opposing views, whether that's conservative vs. liberal or something more creative. If it's a crime, maybe try common reasons the crime is committed vs. how the public feels about the crime. Maybe show how something is represented in movies and books vs. how it is in reality. Stereotypes vs. true stories. I don't care how you do it, but there is one rule. Impartiality. I don't want to read any biases. If I can tell which side you agree with, you failed to do your job right. I want to be able to read an essay about a horrible crime and be able to believe that it is just as probable that the writer committed the crime as it is that they passionately advocate against it. Don't defend or condemn either side of the story, just honestly represent the different perspectives you find. And be creative. Class dismissed."

Everyone cleared out rather quickly, but Jason slugged on behind them, wondering just how he was going to be unbiased about human trafficking, a topic so close to his heart.

And even closer to his past.

Chapter Text

"At this point, I have no idea what I'm doing and I'm surviving on pure luck."

Jason couldn't help a silent snicker at the expense of his roommate at the confession. Roy had been running himself ragged already, and it was only the second week of school. "I don't know how you can already be so behind and overwhelmed. Didn't you already take a full semester last spring?"

Roy heaved an irritated sigh, as though he felt Jason was being difficult on purpose. "Yes, Jason, but last semester I only did 12 hours. That's a full semester. This semester, I got permission from the dean of my department to take 22 hours. That's three more classes than a full load! One of those classes even has a lab. A lab, Jay!" He flopped back down on the bed, the palms of his hands pressing into eyes.

Rolling his eyes, Jason turned away from his desk where he was trying to get some of his own work done. "Roy Harper, the Scholar. Who would have guessed?"

Roy jerked up from where he was laying down, shooting Jason a glare. "Like you can talk, Mr. "I memorized Shakespeare while I was living in a cardboard box in an alleyway."

Jason rolled his eyes and pretended to scoff. "I never lived in a cardboard box, Roy."

"Oh really?"

"No, it was dumpster."

Roy cracked a smile. "Makes you sound even more like a pretentious asshole."

Jason shrugged. "Yeah, probably."

Smile fading, Roy dropped back down on his bed, heaving a sigh of great proportions. "What am I going to do, Jay?"

"Stop complaining about it for starters." Roy shot him another glare, but Jason ignored him and continued. "The way I see it, from how you're going now, you can either swallow your pride and drop a couple of classes to help you manage, or keep all your classes but fail a couple of them because you weren't willing to eat a healthy helping of humility."

Roy went white at the thought of either option, and Jason knew he had the guy right where he wanted him. "Or," he said, and the simple word gripped Roy's attention. The poor guy was all ears for another option, and he knew Roy would like this one a lot better. He was too much like Jason not to. "Or, you could pull yourself together, get your ass in gear, and get your shit done. Stop complaining and freaking out about how much stuff you suddenly have to do and just do it, for fuck's sake."

Jason was right. Roy liked that option a lot better.

****

A couple hours passed on that same Wednesday and Jason had finally figured out how to describe human trafficking from the point of view of a social worker looking in through the eyes of a child victim, all without showing any bias. It was incredibly difficult, and it took more words than it should have taken to only be one half of his paper. He knew he shouldn't, couldn't, and therefore wouldn't ask Clark for an extension. All limits have reasons, and sometimes it is just that the professor doesn't want to have to read 10 page papers from 20 different students from a single class every week, but Jason knew there was more to this limit. In journalism, you only have the space allotted to you in order to tell the story and give the information the people need in order to be informed. On occasion, a journalist will be blessed with a large following and, as a result, an expanded writing platform that allows them to write as much as they need, but sometimes you only have a tiny column in a shitty magazine to tell the world something important that it needs to know. You can't ask for an extension. You have to work with what you've got.

Jason was stressing out about how to do the harder half of the assignment with less words to write it with when Roy came back from the showers. Out of the corner of his eye, Jason realized that Roy was dressed a lot nicer than he should have been for an afternoon of cranking out assignments. He slowly swiveled in his chair to face the other man. "What are you doing?"

Roy froze and swallowed before pivoting to look at Jason. "Umm..."

Jason sighed and leaned back in his chair. "You're going out with your girlfriend, aren't you?" Roy opened his mouth to reply, but Jason didn't give him time to defend himself. "Dammit, Roy, and after I gave that awesome motivational speech and everything."

"We made our plans last week. I couldn't cancel on her!"

"Why not? She'd break up with you?"

"No, she'd just kill me! That's actually way worse, just so you know."

Jason tried really hard to hide his smile, but it snuck its way out there. "Jeeze, Roy. Well, have fun on your date. Hope it’s worth the chaos it'll cause later." Jason rolled his eyes and turned back to his desk.

"You want to meet her?"

"What," he squeaked out, looking back at Roy over his shoulder.

"I said, 'Do you want to meet her?'."

"Why the hell would you ask me that? Why would I want to meet your girlfriend?"

Roy heaved a sigh. "I don't know, Jay. But she's coming over here so we can go together, so I thought you might want to say hi real quick before we leave. No need to make a fuss over it or anything, it's not like she's your girlfriend."

Jason exhaled, slowly letting the air drain out of his puffed out cheeks from the corners of his mouth. "I'll say hi. Real quick." Roy smiled. "But don't expect me to be a dashing gentleman or anything. And I'm staying in my PJ's."

Roy laughed just as someone knocked on the door. That someone was apparently supposed to be the girlfriend, because Roy immediately panicked, checking his appearance in the mirror one more time before hurriedly shouting, "Coming!" He turned to Jason and motioned for him to stand up. "Come on," he whispered. "I don't have time for you to take all day, either. Our reservations are in half an hour and there’s traffic this time of day."

"Why the hell would you get lunch reservations, you idiot," Jason whisper yelled back.

"Because we're both busy most evenings with work, you asshole." Roy threw open the door with a big smile on his face. "Hey, babe. Right on time as always."

A very pretty, very athletic looking blonde with her hair in a tight, high ponytail smiled sarcastically. "Well, yeah, Carrot Top. I am the punctual one in this relationship, aren't I?"

Roy's grin turned just a little mushy, but it didn't show in his voice. "So what, I'm the late one?"

"Generally, yeah." She popped her hip out and placed a hand on her waist. "Who's this," she asked, gesturing to Jason with her other hand.

Jason stepped forward, reaching out a hand. "I'm Jason. I doubt I need to explain the roommate part, considering I'm in his room in my PJ's."

She laughed quietly, nodding. "Yeah, he told me about you. You're the guy Tim spilled his coffee on, right?"

Jason sighed and shook his head. "It's a testament to how many people Tim knows that nobody has brought it up more than once and I'm already getting tired of it."

The girl sucked her teeth, nodding. "Yeah. Rich people and college professors apparently have two things in common: they all know each other, and they tend to stick together." All three of them laughed, though Roy didn't look so sure if he should be happy they were getting along or jealous. "Anyway, I'm Artemis. It's nice to meet you and I'd love to stay and chat, but we'll be late if we keep standing here any longer."

Jason quickly said goodbye to them both and they bustled out the door. As soon as they left, Jason went back to his desk and sighed as he sat back down in his chair to keep working on his paper.

Maybe if Roy could score a girl like that then Jason actually had a shot with Tim.

Chapter Text

Jason was at Tim's place again. It was a Thursday, and Jason was helping Tim with his Shakespeare again. The class had moved on from Romeo and Juliet to Hamlet (apparently getting the most obvious, well-known, and cliché plays out of the way first). Tim had been utterly elated when Jason told him the play had actually been translated into Klingon, and he vowed to read it in that translation before the end of the week.

Jason was explaining to Tim the differences between the first quarto (the 'bad quarter') and the 1623 First Folio, when Tim suddenly interrupted him. "Yeah, um, while all of that is interesting, I'm going to venture a guess and say you've never seen a movie adaptation of Hamlet either."

Taken by surprise, Jason's mouth opened and closed a few times, giving him an interesting resemblance to a fish, before he retrieved his wits enough to answer, "No. No, I haven't."

Tim grinned and jumped up from his bed, getting his computer up and running to play, Jason assumed, Hamlet. Jason sighed in resignation, pretending he didn't know about the smile he was trying to hide. He was starting to think Tim liked watching movies with him as much as Jason liked watching them with Tim.

Just like last time, Tim left Jason in the room to go get snacks. He came back with his arms full, making him look even smaller than he already was. His incredibly pleased grin made Jason's heart melt on sight, and he inwardly groaned, remembering how hard of a time he'd had the previous week with paying attention to the movie and keeping his thoughts off of Tim.

Then again, Jason had been thinking about Tim all week, so he didn't really know why he would possibly expect it to be different now.

They curled up in their respective chairs with comfy blankets and Tim clicked play with his mouse. It wasn't long before Jason rolled his eyes. "Of course Mel Gibson is in it."

Tim nodded enthusiastically. "Helena Bonham Carter is Othelia."

"Ugh," was Jason's only reply, making Tim frown.

"I'm sorry, did you just say, 'ugh'? As in, you aren't insanely pleased by the cast of this movie?" Tim narrowed his eyes suspiciously.

"No, no, they're fine."

"I don't believe you."

"Really! It's fine." Jason held up his hands in surrender.

Tim looked away from him, nose snootily held in the air. He turned back to the movie. "Uh huh. Sure."

Jason sighed. "It's just cliche. Mel Gibson is in all kinds of stuff like this. He's kind of known for it."

Tim rolled his eyes, but he did look at Jason again, so apparently he was worth his time again. "He's known for it because he's in it. He was in this movie when he was making a name for being in stuff like this. This was before Braveheart."

"Okay. That's fine. I already said it was fine. I'm not a movie buff, so it's not like I knew that."

Tim was about to continue arguing with him when he froze, his eyes kind of going a bit wide. "Jason, how many movies have you seen?"

Caught off guard by this new line of questioning, Jason shrugged. "I don't know. A couple dozen, maybe?"

Tim narrowed his eyes at him. "And when did you see your first movie?"

Swallowing a little nervously, he hesitated, not sure he really wanted to answer. "I saw a movie once when I was 9 or something. The librarian who taught me to read let me watch one on a computer. The next time I saw one was a year or so ago."

Tim stared at him for a second, completely expressionless, then he nodded and turned back to the computer. "Next week, I'm showing you Braveheart."

Jason wasn't sure how Tim knew that he'd never seen it, but he was grateful anyway. He was also grateful that Tim hadn't made a big deal about his lack of movie experience. He smiled and turned back to the movie, hoping he would manage to pay attention this time.

No such luck. Tim would randomly ask him a question about one thing or another and it would take him a moment to focus on the movie and figure out what the question was so he could figure out what the answer was. It was actually kind of exhausting, trying to stare at Tim without him knowing.

The famous soliloquy had just begun when Tim had another question. Instead of just asking like he usually had, Tim turned his whole head to look at Jason, unexpectedly making eye contact. His words died on his lips as he realized that Jason had been staring at him. "Jay? What're you-"

That stupid nickname. Jason blamed how much he loved hearing Tim call him that nickname for what he did next. Interrupting Tim's question, Jason darted forward and captured the younger man's lips in a kiss. His hand came up and cupped one of Tim's cheeks. At first, Tim seemed surprised (gee, I wonder why), but then he seemed really pleased with the kiss considering he returned it quite fervently.

What Jason had expected (in the very small part of his mind that knew he was going to do that) to be a very short kiss that immediately resulted in rejection turned out to be a very long, very heated, passionate makeout with Timothy Drake.

At some point during the kiss, Tim stood up out of the chair, trying to get a better angle. The kiss deepened, and Tim used his newfound leverage over Jason to stick his tongue in his mouth. Jason couldn't find it in him to complain, and he happily allowed his mouth to be explored for a while. Tim seemed to get bored with the status quo, however, and pulled on Jason's arm, prompting him to stand up, too. Deciding that he wanted a little bit more control than Tim had previously granted him, Jason reached down and grabbed Tim's hips, easily lifting him up. Tim wrapped his arms around his hips, and Jason moved his hands to cup Tim's ass, making holding him up a lot easier.

Thankful that Tim was so light, Jason turned and walked until Tim's back was against the wall, barely managing to be mindful of the desk next to them. Tim groaned when his back hit the wall, and he arched his chest forward into Jason's. Tim's arms, which had previously been snaked around Jason's neck, unwrapped and slip over his shoulders, his hands exploring Jason's considerable musculature. One of Jason's hands slipped up under Tim's shirt, exploring the contours of his abdomen. Tim moaned into Jason's mouth, sending vibrations over Jason's tongue. Jason separated their lips, swallowing as much saliva as he could and catching his breath.

Their foreheads leaned against each other, and their eyes were closed. Tim's hands were still slowly roving over Jason's back muscles, and he cleared his throat. Tim's head shifted against his, prompting him to look at him. They made eye contact, and Jason couldn't help but grin smugly at how debauched the younger man looked. Tim smiled back briefly and said one word. "Bed?"

Jason's smirk fell away in something akin to awe as he fervently nodded his head. "Fuck yes." He pulled Tim off the wall and moved to the bed, dropping him and letting him bounce once before crawling over him. Tim met him with a sweet smile and a sweeter kiss and Jason was pretty sure he was in heaven. Tim's hands tugged on his shirt, pulling it up and over his head, breaking their kiss for a moment. His hands ran over Jason's chest, and Tim bit his lip to cover a playful smirk as he pinched a very sensitive, very particular spot on Jason's pectoral. Jason growled in response and tugged off Tim's own shirt.

He looked down at the glorious body below him, trying not to let his imagination run wild at the thought of all he could do to him, when something made him pause. "Wait, Timmy, how old are you?"

Tim rolled his eyes and ground his hips up into Jason. "Seventeen. Almost eighteen. The age of consent in Gotham is 16, now would you get down here already."

Jason smirked and decided to tease him for a moment. "I don't know, Timmers, I'm nineteen, almost twenty, and I'm not sure how I feel about this." He leaned back down over Tim, arching his back to get as close to Tim as he could get without actually touching. Their faces were centimeters apart. "I might take advantage," he whispered.

Tim was barely coherent enough to scoff, obviously a bit overwhelmed with his lust and Jason's closeness. "I've wanted in your pants since the day we met. I doubt you could actually take anything I'm not already perfectly happy to give."

Jason, though utterly surprised at that little tidbit of information, didn’t relent. He dropped the teasing tone, becoming serious in an instant. "Tim, are you sure?" He wanted - no, he needed - to make sure that this was 100% consensual.

Tim sighed. "Yes, I'm sure, Jay. Why did you think I asked you for help with Shakespeare?"

"Because you suck at it and you didn't want to mess up your 4.0."

Rolling his eyes, Tim leaned up and gave him another long, sweet kiss. "Yes, Jay, but we could have done tutoring at the library instead of in my room with the door shut.”

Jason’s jaw dropped a little as he realized what a little mastermind Tim actually was. Apparently he'd been quiet to long, because Tim's face had sort of fallen. "Jason?"

He couldn't reply, didn't know how to. He knew he didn't want to stop, he knew he wanted this thing with Tim to continue, to be more, but for some reason he couldn’t make himself move.

"Jason."

He was wrapping his head around it all, going back to last week to try and remember if Tim had looked disappointed when he'd gotten out of the car without even a kiss. He hadn't seemed like it, had seemed pretty happy, actually, he was even smiling, and-

"Jason!"

Jason tried to tell Tim what was going on in his head, tried to tell him how he felt or give him a kiss, but he was still frozen in place. It was actually starting to freak him out.

"JASON!"

Jason jerked to a sitting position, his eyes popping open and his mouth opening in a startled gasp. He looked around himself to see that he was still sitting in his chair by the desk, Tim was in the chair next to him and the computer on the desk was rolling credits. Jason swallowed and looked wide-eyed at Tim. "What the hell just happened?"

Tim cracked up. "You fell asleep. I think it was just before the soliloquy."

Jason was internally panicking now that he realized that he'd just had a dream about almost banging Tim. While in the same room as Tim. He gulped, really hoping it hadn't shown. "Crap. Did I snore?"

Tim was still chuckling, and he shook his head. "No, but you did drool a lot." He started laughing even harder at Jason's expression.

"Oh shit!" Jason looked down to see he'd gotten a fair amount of slobber on both his shirt and the upholstery on Tim's chair. He tried to dry some of it up with the hem of his shirt, raising it up enough to show his stomach. "Man, I'm so sorry."

Tim calmed down a little and waved his hand dismissively. "Don't worry about it, Jay. It was kind of cute."

Apparently Tim realized what he said around the same Jason did, because when he looked up he saw that Tim's ears were pink and he wouldn't look Jason in the eye. "Uh," Tim said, standing up and moving back to the bed. "Did you have a nice dream?"

It was that moment that Jason realized he had some wood in his pants. Dropping his shirt, he cleared his throat, hoping his mental panic wasn't showing on the outside. "I don't really remember," he lied. "Did I say anything?" He was really glad he'd chosen to wear looser jeans and a longer T-shirt.

"No. Why, do you normally?"

"I don't know, Timbers, I'm not usually awake to notice."

Tim laughed again, and Jason figured he was probably in the clear.

Chapter Text

Clark smiled as he stood in the doorway, completely unnoticed by the man he was watching. Bruce had always been the kind of man who completely focused on whatever was in front of him. As a homicide detective, it had made him the best. As a teacher, it made him successful. But when that gaze was fixed on an individual person, it was always hard to breathe.

Clark liked to watch him like this, completely absorbed by whatever language or class he was working on. Sometimes, he'd get offers from archaeologists and historians to consult on various projects, and he'd spend days doing nothing else but staring. He always refused to go anywhere though. Anything they wanted him to study or translate had to be sent to him, or at least photos of it. His work and his family were too important to him to permit traipsing across the globe as one of the world's best linguists.

Clark admired that. He wished he had always been such a dedicated father. As it were, he spent his first few years of parenthood traveling the world for one story or another while his son grew up on a farm in Kansas, raised by capable, but aging grandparents who could never truly replace the father he knew existed but had never met. It was seeing Bruce as such a great parent that had made him decide to go back. There was something about the close-knit nature of the Wayne family that inspired others, made them jealous. How a group of people with little to no biological relation could be so loyal and dedicated to each other was impressive, yes, but it was also something that was incredibly desirable to any outsider looking in on that kind of family.

Clark knew he was lucky to have a son and parents who truly loved him, who would do anything for him. He was incredibly grateful to have had a second shot at parenthood, as well as having been blessed with such a wonderfully talented, well-mannered, and well-behaved son, but he knew that he was just as lucky to be considered a further extension of family by Bruce and all of his crazy children. With the exception of Damian, of course, who persistently refused to call him anything other than, 'The Alien’.

Bruce leaned back in his chair, stretching out his back and cracking his neck loudly enough to make Clark wince. He looked around the room in a glance, suddenly noticing that Clark was standing in the doorway. He gave Clark a considering look before giving him a small smile. "How long have you been there?"

Clark chuckled softly. "A little while. Work or play?"

Taking a deep breath, Bruce waved him over. Clark pushed off the door frame and made his way over to stand next to Bruce behind the desk. "A little of both, I suppose. One of my students wrote a concept essay for their senior thesis that argues that languages like Russian, Arabic, and Japanese which have their own unique written characters would actually be easier to learn for English-speaking, picture-based, memorization learners than other European languages like Spanish, French and German because they wouldn't have to worry about how different vowels and consonants are pronounced in different languages. They could picture the word in their heads and remember how it’s supposed to be pronounced and all of its various meanings based off of the image. Because the writings all look different, you don't have to make those language-specific differentiations that might make remembering more difficult."

Clark sighed. "Sounds like work to me."

Bruce shook his head, a smile finally forming on those full lips. "It's an interesting argument that goes against the grain of common opinion. It's been made before, but some of the points this student used are unique. It's entertaining to see how many of his arguments could be validated on a wide scale. If so, it could change the way that languages are taught in schools and could even have some interesting implications for software like Rosetta Stone."

Chuckling slightly, Clark placed a hand on the back of Bruce's chair and leaned over to read the essay over Bruce's shoulder. "Still sounds like work."

Bruce looked up at him, but Clark just kept reading. "Well, I find it interesting, so it's play to me. Sort of like how all those boring essays are interesting to you."

Now Clark looked at him. "They are very interesting, thank you very much."

Rolling his eyes, Bruce wrinkled his eyebrows in disbelief. "You read a seven-page editorial essay on the history of chewing gum."

"And it was fascinating."

"I'm sure it was. To someone."

Clark stood up and leaned against the desk, purposefully ignoring Bruce's smirk.

"Jason's doing well so far."

Bruce's eyebrows raised at the change in topic. "Well, that's good, I suppose."

Nodding, Clark turned his head away from Bruce, surveying the bookcase that was overflowing with ancient manuscripts in old languages and modern dissertations on everything from linguistic complexities of African tribal languages to the development of criminal psychosis in children. "I'm worried about him, Bruce."

Clark could feel Bruce slowly stand up beside him. He placed a hand on Clark's upper arm, drawing his eyes back to him. "Did something happen?"

Clark shook his head. "No. Well, sort of. You know how I give my students topics at random for them to write about the whole semester?"

Bruce nodded. "Yes. Usually they're mostly obscure social or political issues that you're particularly passionate about at the time."

"Well, in Jason's class, when I passed them out randomly he got Human Trafficking."

"Great topic. What's the problem?"

"I had them read their initial papers out loud to the class on Monday." Clark turned to face Bruce. "I don't know what it is, Bruce, but I've got this feeling. Something was hinted at in his essay, and in Ra's' recommendation letter, something that happened to him, and I'm not sure, I have no way to be sure, but I think it's connected somehow."

"To human trafficking?" Bruce didn't sound skeptical. He didn't look suspicious. He simply looked curious and concerned. Clark loved him for it, his simple acceptance of what was being told to him. No judgments, no doubt. Just faith in Clark's intuition and experience.

"Yes. And I don't know what to do about it or where to go from here. Is there even anything I can do? Or should do?"

Bruce exhaled slowly and sat down on the wooden surface of his desk, completely ignoring the crumple of the papers he'd been studying earlier. There was that focus again. Jason didn't know it had been centered so keenly on him, but if he had, he'd have been grateful. Bruce was intelligent, and he knew a lot about these sorts of things. Any suggestion Bruce had to offer would automatically be in Jason's best interest and would actually be the smart thing to do.

If you asked Clark about how to best deal with or help a closeted gay or a sensitive scandal in a woman's past, he would know the best answer of how to move forward. But this sort of thing was way out of his experience range and skill set. It was times like this that he was incredibly grateful for Bruce's history with criminal justice.

"There's nothing you can actively do for him without risking pushing him away," Bruce finally answered. "I don't know the kid well enough to know how he'd respond to a direct question or gentle prodding. The best you can do is be there if he needs you and be understanding if he wants to talk." Bruce looked up at Clark, an old sadness in his eyes. "If he asks a question or for advice, then do the best you can, but don't offer it out of nowhere. There's nothing he'll think he needs less than some guy trying to tell him what he needs or how he feels or what he should do about it. Just be there, be open, and don't initiate anything beyond a healthy professor-student relationship."

Clark nodded. "Thank you. I'll be sure to do my best."

Bruce gave him a sad, but confident smile. "You won't have to worry, Clark. You're a naturally likable guy with a heart of gold and a genuine desire to care for others. He'll see that, he'll trust you, and if he needs something, he'll know where you are." Clark smiled gratefully, sitting on the desk next to Bruce.

"Thanks for the vote of confidence. I felt like I needed that."

"Mhm. Besides, if I'm reading things right, he has Tim. I'm completely confident that if Tim thought Jason was in a bad place or needed help he'd speak up."

Clark nodded thoughtfully. "You're right about that one. Those two would be good together. I hope Tim gets over his whole self-conscious thing and makes a move, because if I'm right about Jason's past, he won't want to. He'll be too afraid to."

Bruce took a deep breath. "Tim'll get there. He's a slow one when it comes to relational things, but he's not stupid. Jason's a good kid, and Tim is smart enough to figure out that the good ones are keepers."

Clark chuckled softly for a moment, before realizing something. The two of them were talking about Jason and Tim getting together like they knew what they were talking about, but they'd both had failed marriages (resulting in offspring) and had been effectively dancing around each other for years. Or, at least, Clark really hoped they'd been dancing around each other. If they hadn't, then it was quite possible that Clark's feelings were unrequited, and that would make what he was about to do very awkward. "Well, I always did say lead by example, right?"

Clark saw Bruce smile and he heard the older man laugh quietly. "Is this the part where you finally ask me out?"

Clark's jaw dropped as he turned to look at Bruce, trying to figure out what the hell had given it away. Bruce saw his expression and laughed harder. "Come on, Clark, you've been fairly obvious for a near eternity. As for me, I've been in love with you for three years now. Almost four. I'm getting a little tired of waiting on you to make the first move."

Clark stared at him for a few moments, internally debating whether he wanted to be irritated or relieved. He decided to just be pleased. "Bruce Wayne, you utter bastard." Then he kissed him.

Because Clark had been in love with Bruce for a lot longer than three years and he was getting a little tired of pining over that idiot.

And the two kissed happily ever after.

Until Dick came in the room half an hour later for a book, only to catch them leaning against the bookshelf making out. All he said was, "It's about time. You old men aren't getting any younger."

(He was actually really excited.)


Chapter Text

It was Monday again and Jason was so not ready for this. Though he hadn't procrastinated once, he was still up until the early hours of the morning working on perfecting his essay for this week. It had been an incredibly tough assignment for him, more so because of the topic, but he was sure that everyone in the class had probably struggled with this one. Since it followed logic that the difficulty would only progress as the class went on, Jason winced as he realized that this was only week three in a 15 week course. He had a very long road ahead of him.

He arrived early, as was his usual, but instead of greeting Clark and making conversation, he used his time to read back over his essay. He knew he couldn't really edit it, seeing as it was a printed word document and any changes he made would be obvious and detract from the professional look of the assignment, but he thought that maybe if he read through it and was satisfied then it would give him some peace of mind.

He wasn't satisfied. At all.

He sighed in resignation and looked up to see Clark watching him with a look of concern. "You look tired, Jason. You doing okay?"

Jason faked a smile and nodded. "Yeah, I was just up really late working on this." He waved his essay for Clark to see before setting it back on the desk. "They're just going to get harder, aren't they?"

Clark's lips twisted as he thought about how to answer for a moment. "Maybe. Some students will have an easier time after this, because now that they have all of their information and they better understand their topic, they'll have an easier time writing the future essays about it. Some topics, though, become more difficult the more you understand them and know about them."

"Why?" Jason thought that maybe he already knew the answer, but he still wanted to hear Clark's explanation for it.

"Well, I think that's because, with some topics, the more you know about it the deeper a connection you feel with the topic, and the more you understand it, the more you care about the issue. Human Trafficking is an especially difficult topic to know about. William Wilberforce once said, ' You may choose to look the other way, but you may never again say you did not know. ' The more you know about that issue, the more you care about the victims, and the more you hate the sick people who do this to them. It makes sense that people would get tired of the topic after a certain amount of... exposure."

Jason nodded his understanding as Clark called the class to order. He agreed with Clark's answer, but he wasn't sure that was his main reason for particularly hating this topic. "Alright, everybody. Luckily for you, nobody will have to read their assignments aloud." The class gave a small cheer. "I'll just ask the class a few questions and then, since I'm required to teach you about kinds of journalism other than written, I have a documentary for you to watch." The class cheered again. "First question: how many of you felt you did manage to do a decent job of representing opposing sides with no bias?"

One of the cons of sitting in the front row was that you couldn't see anybody else in the class when people were raising their hands. You had to turn awkwardly, and obviously, to look over your shoulder at everybody else. No knowing how many others agreed with you was difficult under normal circumstances, but this topic, and assignment, had Jason wired. He swallowed thickly and raised his hand.

Nodding once, Clark began pacing slowly back and forth in front of the podium. "And how many of you found it to be difficult to do this assignment, whether or not you succeeded?" Just from the sounds of weight being shifted and clothing rustling, Jason could tell a whole lot more people raised their hands this time around, Jason among them.

Clark nodded again and paused for a moment, presumably to take in the information. "How many of you feel you have a better grasp of your topic after this assignment?"

A lot of people raised their hands this time too, but not quite as much as they had for the second question. "Well, that's good. That was the purpose of this assignment, in addition to the obvious stretching it would do for your journalism muscles. Sometimes, as journalists, you will be forced to represent an issue without taking sides. While the obvious goal of many journalists is to convince their audiences to agree with them, the main purpose of journalism should be, first and foremost, to inform them that the issue exists, and then let them make their own opinion from the facts." He stopped pacing and faced the class, a wistful smile gracing his lips. "I know that's an old-fashioned notion, but I believe it with all my heart."

The class was silent, either absorbing what Clark had said or just ignoring him entirely. Clark turned on the smart board on the back wall and set up the documentary. Jason tried really hard to pay attention to what it was about, the history of journalism or something, but he was more than a little distracted by his thoughts. He could see where Clark was coming from about letting people make up their own minds, but Jason really didn't see how there could be any other real response to Human Trafficking than that it's absolutely evil and should be stopped at any cost. Jason wondered if maybe that was why he had said it was an old-fashioned notion. Back in the day, maybe there weren't such complicated issues with so many sides to pick from. Or maybe you could just generally count more on people being decent and making good choices.

When the documentary was finally over (thank God, that narrator's voice was fucking annoying), Clark turned off the smart board and faced the class. "So how did you like it?"

The class groaned. Apparently, they agreed with Jason.

Clark laughed and nodded. "I know, they really need to get a new narrator." Clark had just become even cooler in Jason's mind. "I really am sorry, but information from this video will be tested on in a quiz in a few weeks. It has to be done, my friends." Clark snickered through another round of groans from the class and moved on. "Your assignment this week is to write a paragraph. Yes, you heard me right. A paragraph. Sometimes, as a journalist, you might get enough room to write a couple thousand words, but many times you won't. All great issues can be summed up into a few sentences. Your job is to do just that. Explain your issue, pick a story to tell, I don't really care. You're assignment is to write one paragraph, no more than 200 words, that accurately gets across your issue to the reader."

Jason sighed, wondering how he was going to pull this off. Two hundred words sounded like a lot, but it really wasn't. He'd learned as much from NaNoWriMo.

"For the lesson this week, I'm going to tell you a story. It's a great story, very interesting, really. It's the story of how I decided to become a journalist." Clark pulled the chair out from behind his desk, turning it around and straddling it so he faced the class. He folded his arms on the back of the chair, cleared his throat, and began. "I was raised in a Podunk town in the middle of Nowhere, Kansas. The great farming town of Smallville - yes, it is really called Smallville - had a population of barely 1000 people. One high school, one middle school, one elementary school, one library, one post office, two banks, one grocery store, etc. People in good ol' Smallville didn't really get out much. Ninety percent of the people who lived there had never been farther than Kansas City, and I only knew two families who'd ever been to Metropolis.

"One of those families had a son a few years older than me. His name was Lex, and he was a good friend of mine. He and his dad traveled back and forth between Smallville and Metropolis a lot, and it seemed to me like he knew everything that was happening in the world when I didn't know a thing. Lex taught me to investigate things, to discover things. He encouraged and facilitated my curiosity in a time when most people in Smallville would rather we all kept to ourselves.

"Lex moved to Metropolis for good when I was starting high school, and in an attempt to prolong and honor my friendship with him as much as possible, I joined my high school's newspaper. Instead of reporting on who was dating who or how the crops were coming that season, I did what I could to find out as much about the world as I could and tell everyone in my high school about it. I fell in love with keeping others informed. And when I moved to Gotham City for university, I discovered that journalism was basically what I'd been doing all that time. So I became a journalist so I could continue telling people about the bigger issues, the things in this world that go beyond individuals.

"So the lesson for this week is this: there are people all over the world who have no idea what is happening outside of their corner of it. They are completely ignorant of anything that isn't happening to them, at their home, in their community. It is your job, as a journalist or even as just a person who has things that you are passionate about, to tell the world about what's important. Inform them. Make them care. If you don't, who will?"

Jason nodded along with the rest of the class, realizing why Clark gave them all topics that most people didn't know or care about. "And one more thing, guys. Always remember that the world is bigger than you are." Clark cleared his throat once more and took a deep breath. "Class dismissed. Turn in your essays on my desk to be graded as you leave the room. Good luck with your paragraphs."

Jason filed out of the room with everybody else, dropping his essay on the stack. As he headed out into the world, Jason couldn't help but wonder why Clark's last words, "The world is bigger than you are," had made him feel convicted.

Chapter Text

Jason had another dream about Tim. There were a lot less clothes the second time around, and Jason was really starting to worry about his sanity. Jason was a special kind of guy. His unique... experiences gave him a unique perspective on a lot of things, and sex was one of those things. A very big thing.

Jason had decided a long time ago that sex meant something. When two people had sex, Jason believed that something happened, that a connection formed. It might not be a deep connection, but it really was the most intimate connection people were capable of forming. It made sense, really, considering one person literally put a part of their body inside another person's body. That actually sounded really weird. Like cannibalism or some shit.

Regardless, that was what Jason thought. He had to think that way. If sex didn't mean anything, then all those times he was forced into it shouldn't have hurt so much. If no connection formed, Jason shouldn't still be able to feel every one of them inside of him. The pain shouldn't still be there, like a scar on the surface of his mind. If sex was inconsequential, the memory should have faded like most memories from childhood fade overtime. Sex had to mean something.

That was the only explanation for why rape hurt so much, and why the pain never went away.

Jason had long ago decided that sex wasn't something he wanted, not casually. He didn't want one night stands, or even friends with benefits. He didn't want something fake, or quick, or casual. He wanted a relationship and feelings and commitment, or he wanted nothing at all.

So for Jason to have dreams about sexing it up with Tim... Well that told Jason a lot about what the hell was going on in his brain. And he wasn't sure he liked it.

Jason wasn't sure it was worth it, all the attachment. He wasn't sure the feelings and the commitment was worth it. The eventual break up and loss that was nearly inevitable in a majority of relationships didn't seem worth the temporary benefits of having a partner. And Jason really didn't want to ruin his friendship with Tim over some temporary feelings. He liked Tim - a lot - and he didn't want to screw with that just because he got a boner while he hallucinated about Tim during his nightly comatose sessions.

It just wasn't worth the pain. Experience rarely lied, and that's what Jason's experiences were telling him.

That was why he was so damn confused when he found himself grabbing his phone and pulling up Tim's contact. He couldn't fathom his own actions when he hit call. And he didn't know what the hell was wrong with him when as soon as Tim picked up, and before the other man had been able to say anything more than, 'Jason?' he was already blurting out, "Timmers, will you go on a date with me?"

Jason figured that dreams might just be a lot like intuition, and his was telling him that Tim just might be worth it. It was telling him that experiences were always right about the past, but they couldn't predict the future.

That idea was cemented in place when Tim said yes without a second's hesitation.

****

A date was one thing, but Jason thought that this was quite another.

"Timbo, why?"

Tim just smiled cheekily and yanked him on behind him. "Because it's awesome."

"No, it is most certainly not 'awesome'. This is a death trap disguised as a nightmare."

Tim rolled his eyes. "Shut up, Jason. This is going to be the best date ever and when this is all over, you are going to thank me FOR showing you the best time you've ever had on a date ever."

Breathing out a resigned sigh, Jason mumbled out, "I've never been on a date before."

Stopping in his tracks, Tim turned to look at him with a dumbfounded expression. "You what now?"

He shook his head, refusing to make eye contact. He didn't stop with Tim; he just kept on walking right past him. "I didn't say anything. Come on, we're about to have fun, remember?"

Tim stood there for another second, staring out into space with his mouth opening and closing like a fish. Then he shook his head and hurried after Jason. "Yup. Lots of fun. The most fun. You are going to love this."

"Uh huh," Jason sighed as he walked through the doors of the local roller rink. The air conditioning hit him in a wave, as did the sounds. The music was blaring, teens were shrieking, girls were laughing, and old people were literally everywhere, chatting it up. He didn't know how Tim could stand the cacophony, but the younger man didn't even flinch at the onslaught of noises. He just led Jason along by their linked hands toward the skate rental booth.

"Do you want skates or blades, Jay?"

He shrugged. "What's the difference?"

Tim smiled indulgently. "Skates have to rows of two wheels, one in the front and one in the back. You stop with a break placed on the shoe right in front of the first set of wheels. Blades are more like ice skates. Four wheels in a column, one after the other, forming a straight line kind of like a blade. There's a break at the back of the column for stopping."

Jason opened his mouth to pick one, but he really just didn't know which was better. "I honestly have no idea, Timmy. Why don't you just pick for me?"

Tim appeared to be very pleased with this suggestion. He ordered two sets of skates in the appropriate sizes and headed over to a bench, Jason following behind a bit like a lost puppy. They sat down and Tim helped Jason make sure the skates were laced up tight enough (holy fuck, they were tight) and then they made their way to the edge of the rink, very slowly in Jason's case. Tim stepped out into the rink and held out a hand for Jason to take. "Come on, Jay. It's not too difficult once you get the hang of it, and everyone here has fallen on their asses at least four times. You'll be fine."

Jason snorted and took Tim's hand. "It's not like I'm scared or anythi-holy fuck!" Jason's first foot slid out from under him almost immediately, and the only thing that kept him from hitting the floor with his ass was Tim's steady hands. Tim cracked up as he helped Jason regain his balance (or really just 'gain' because he never had it to begin with). As soon as he could stand up straight, he let go of Tim and gripped the edge of the rink for dear life.

Tim was still doubled over laughing, and he laughed even harder when he noticed the daggers Jason was glaring in his direction. "This is so not funny, Timmers. Not even close."

Nodding his head, Tim stood up straight. "This is hilarious, Jason. I knew skating was entertaining, but even I couldn't have foreseen this masterpiece of comedy."

Why was Jason on a date with this asshole again?

With a final sigh, Tim calmed down and stopped laughing altogether. He cleared his throat and skated over in front of Jason. "Are you mad at me, Jay?'

With a resigned huff, Jason shook his head. "I wanted to be, but then you called me 'Jay', so." He shrugged and let go of the railing for a second with one hand to run it through his hair, but he lost his balance again. He grabbed the railing again, but that wouldn't have been enough to keep him up if Tim hadn't grabbed his bicep.

Jason glared at him, expecting another laugh. Tim managed to refrain, though it took a valiant effort on his part, and he grabbed Jason's other bicep with his free arm. "Okay, so clearly you don't have any idea how to do this." Jason's glare intensified, and he was on the verge of a growl, but Tim's pretty much joyous smile wouldn't let him be anything more than irritated. "Here, spread your feet out so they are about shoulder-width apart, and bend your knees slightly. Don't lean backward. If you need to lean, forward is a lot safer."

Swallowing, Jason did his best to comply, and, with minimal wobbling, he managed to more or less copy Tim's stance. It took a few seconds for him to get used to, but then he was able to stand still without falling over or gripping the guardrail like a lifeline.

Tim grinned triumphantly. "Awesome. I'm clearly an amazing teacher."

Pretending he wasn’t smiling at how adorable Tim was, Jason rolled his eyes. "Well, Grand Master Tim, would you care to move on, or am I going to be stuck standing still the holding time?"

"Oh, right. Okay, so moving is pretty easy. Keep your knees slightly bent, lean forward just a little, and roll the foot that isn't bearing your weight forward like you’re pretending to ski or something. But move it straight forward, not to the side like an actual ski. That's what you do for rollerblading."

Jason nodded his head, and waited a sec. When Tim kept standing in front of him, he motioned for Tim to move out of the way. "Oh," he said sheepishly. "Sorry." Jason smirked in reply and did as he was told. "Good, good, now shift your weight onto the foot in front and do the same thing with your other foot. Good, now put your weight on that foot. Good, but step into it more." Jason complied with all of Tim's demands, moving forward inches at a time. "Perfect," Tim exclaimed. "Now you just have to watch for the-oof!"

Jason went flying forward, dragging Tim down with him by the hand he was holding. Jason came crashing down first, with Tim landing on top of him. Their foreheads cracked against each other and they both groaned. Tim rolled off of Jason so he was lying next to him on his back and reached up to rub his hand with his hand. "The toe stop. Watch for the toe stop."

"Oh, is that what that was," Jason snarked back.

Tim rolled his eyes and groaned as he sat up. A pair of pre-teen girls rolled up to them on their skates with a huff. "Um, could you get out of the way? People are trying to skate here." The girls smirked snootily and rolled away, obviously irritated by those dumb guys who couldn't even skate properly. What losers, right?

Tim smirked and stood up. "This is so cliché."

Jason sat up, too, and Tim helped him get to his feet. He sighed as he rubbed the sore spot on his ass. "Too cliché," he agreed.

****

They'd continued skating for about an hour before Jason's ass was too sore to continue. They decided to go get a milkshake at a diner. They split the milkshake, two straws and everything.

Yeah... that date was super cliche.

Chapter Text

For the first time ever, Jason was actually feeling pretty good about journalism class. He wasn't late, and he was pretty confident about the paragraph he wrote. When he arrived, he took his usual seat in the front row and waited for everything to begin. Clark was reading something at his desk, but he looked up when he noticed Jason sit down. "Hey, Jason. You look a lot better this week." Clark gave him a sly, shit-eating grin that Jason hadn't known he was capable of. "That wouldn't have anything to do with Tim, would it?"

Jason's eyes went wide, and his reply was anything but smooth. "Tim?" he asked with a scoff. "Psh, no, why would my good mood have anything to do with Tim? That'd be...," he trailed off when he realized that Clark really wasn't buying it and Jason didn't have anything better up his sleeve. "Shut up, Clark."

Clark laughed loudly, drawing the attention of a few of the students that were already there. "How was roller-skating, Jason?"

Groaning, Jason folded his arms on his desk and dropped his head on them, absolutely refusing to answer. Clark only laughed harder.

A few minutes later, everyone was there and it was time to start. "Alrighty, class, this week, you'll be reading aloud your paragraphs. We'll start with Jimmy, because since he's so comfortable in his chair, he must be really confident." Jason looked over his shoulder to see Jimmy frozen solid with his feet up on his desk. The now-blushing student made his way down to the front and the readings began.

Jason went somewhere around the middle, and he actually wasn't nervous. When it was his turn, he stood up, faced the class, and read his paragraph aloud:

"Once upon a time, there was a fourteen-year-old girl in Columbia named Toha. Her family was poor, so her mother sold her virginity in order to pay for what they needed. The girl was then trafficked to brothel, where she was forced to work as a prostitute. An organization called AIM was able to rescue her in only 22 days. By then, however, she'd been raped by 198 different men. The math equals out to 9 men per day. This fourteen-year-old girl was raped by nine different men a day for 22 days. There are many girls like her all over the world, and most of them are never lucky enough to be rescued. AIM, Agape International Missions, has a saying: ' One girl is too many. One day is too long.'"

(A/N The above is a true story. You can buy bracelets that say '22' on them as a reminder and a way to spread awareness about human trafficking on the AIM website.)

Jason paused for dramatic effect, taking in the stunned, heartbroken, and, in some cases, bewildered expressions on his classmates’ faces. He then took his seat, seeing the sad, knowing look in Clark's eyes as they made contact with his. It made him uncomfortable, wondering just how 'knowing' Clark was in that moment.

****

Once everybody had read aloud their paragraphs, Clark stood back up at the podium. "Alright everybody. I have wonderful news for you all. There won't be any more writing assignments actually due until your final. Your midterm will simply be a quiz on a few more videos that I have to show you," he was interrupted by a groan from the entire class, making him chuckle for a second. "Regardless, you will still have plenty to do in the following weeks. I keep the midterm simple and easy because I want you all to focus on your Final.

"Using the topic that you already have, you are all to make a final presentation using one of the methods of journalism that we learned about in the video last week. A written article, a PowerPoint, a documentary, whatever you want. I have three other classes with different topics and the same assignments, and you, class, will be competing against them." Jason's eyebrows rose, as he was sure did those of the rest of the class. "The five best final presentations, whatever the form, will be submitted to a journalism contest that is run and facilitated by myself and over 100 other journalism professors and experts in this half of the country. The winner will receive a cash prize and publication for their presentation, and the two runner ups will also receive cash prizes."

Jason wasn't sure he knew the point of the class competing. He already knew that all of Clark's other journalism classes were more advanced than his, and there were almost certainly dozens of other more advanced classes competing, as well.

It was as if Clark had read Jason's thoughts, however, because he continued. "Don't think you don't stand a chance, though. I've been participating in the contest for all seven years that I've been teaching at this school, and I've had four of my students, one from this level class, win first place. I've had eleven students take second or third place, several of which were also from this class. You've got a chance, but not if you don't try. And you have to try anyway, because your final is 50% of your grade for this class."

Well, damn. Now Jason didn't have any excuses left.

"I have a sign-up sheet on my desk. Each of you need to pick a time to have a meeting with me in my office about your Final. You'll pitch your idea for your presentation to me, and I'll either approve or I won't. If I don't, we'll either work together to come up with something, or we'll just reschedule." Clark smirked. "If anyone is sure they've already figured out what they want to do for their project, I have three time slots open for later today."

"As for this week's lesson," he continued, "I have a question to ask you all. How many of you have said the words, 'I don't know,' in the last two weeks?" About half the class raised their hands, including Jason. Clark seemed surprised at how many of them there were. "Wow, okay, more than I expected. How many of you have said, 'I don't care,' in the last two weeks?" This time, every student raised their hand, also including Jason. Clark nodded sadly, not in the least bit surprised this time.

"You see, class, I subscribe to the belief that there is nothing shameful about not knowing something. Nobody actually knows everything there is to know, and pretending to is really just quite ridiculous. But you see, not caring, that is something shameful, in my opinion. If you don't care about something or someone else, or something that someone else does care about, how can you expect anyone to care about what you care about, or to even care about you?" It was an interesting question, and Jason wasn't sure how to answer it with an argument without sounding like a complete asshole.

'I'm just more important,' wasn't likely to get any approval.

"Treat others how you want to be treated, guys. It's cliche, but it's true. It's okay to say you don't know, but never say you don't care. Not knowing is human. Not caring... I'm not really sure what that makes you." After pausing a moment to let that sink in, Clark cleared his throat. "Again, the sign-up sheet is on my desk. Class dismissed."

Being the only one in the first row, Jason made it to the desk first. He hesitated for only a moment before going ahead and choosing the first open time slot for that day. Swallowing, he backed away from the desk and out of the classroom, wondering if he would regret the idea forming in his mind.

****

Jason only had time to grab a quick lunch from one of the fast food places on campus before heading to Clark's office for their meeting. When he got there, Clark was just packing up his own lunch containers and wiping his mouth with a napkin. Clark looked up to see him in the doorway and waved him in. "Come on in, Jason. Take a seat."

Sitting in the chair opposite Clark, he couldn't help but let out a quiet snicker. Clark looked very confused, so Jason had mercy on him and gestured to the corner of his mouth. "You missed a spot, sir."

"Oh!" Clark quickly wiped it off with his thumb and used his tongue to clean his thumb. "Thank you, Jason. That could have been very embarrassing later." Clark cleared his throat and shifted his weight on his rolling chair. "So, I was a little surprised that you chose the first time slot. I had thought you would need more time to think about it."

Jason wondered what he meant by that, but he ignored it. "I knew that if I waited I'd lose my nerve and change my mind."

Clark didn't look confused at all. "Alright, well, pitch your idea."

Taking a deep breath, Jason took the plunge. "I want to tell my story."

"Your story?"

"I grew up on the streets. Something tells me that's no secret, but what is a secret is that I was trafficked by a small ring operating here in Gotham when I was eleven. The deaf girl I told you guys about at dinner that time was taken with me. We were separated and I never saw her again. I was forced to work as an underage prostitute in and around Gotham City, and I was moved often so that nobody got wise. When I was 16, they told me Jen, the deaf girl, was dead. They thought it would break me, but it just made me angry enough to fight back and I escaped. The only reason I even have a GED is because a man named Ra's al Ghul took me in, became my mentor, and helped me get on my feet enough to get a college education."

Jason paused for a second, letting it all set in, before he moved on. Something told him that Clark couldn't be too surprised by it all. He had known something was up for a while, and his demeanor while Jason had talked had told him that only the details were really new information. Either someone had told him or he pieced it together himself. He was a journalist, so Jason hazarded a guess that it was the latter option. "I want to write my story in the form of an online editorial in third person, without specifying that it is actually my story, though I have no doubt it will be obvious anyway."

Clark nodded, thinking about the proposal for a few moments. "Alright. But you know that if you win, it'll get published at a very well-known journalism website, and links to it will be dispersed throughout journalism departments all over the nation, and to news stations, as well."

Jason nodded. "Remember when you said last week that the world is bigger than we are?" Clark nodded. "When I escaped, I didn't go to the police. I was too scared of being found again, so I stayed on the streets. I've seen people's faces. I know people's names. I was deep inside this trafficking ring, and I know a lot about them. I never said a word, because I was too worried about myself. People all over the world don't know that Human Trafficking is a thing. People like Jen, who are either dead or still living as sex slaves, can't afford for me to worry about my privacy. People need to know, and nobody else can tell the story that I can."

"Huh," was all Clark said for several moments as he just sat there, contemplating Jason's answer. "Alright. Approval granted. But you reserve the right to change your mind about your assignment whenever you want. I know this must be very personal for you." Jason nodded and thanked him, standing up to leave, when Clark called his name again. "You could have asked for a different topic, or traded with someone. Why didn't you?"

Jason shifted his weight on his feet, but he forced himself to make eye contact. "I wanted to, at first. Then you said that thing about how a topic we didn't want would only make us grow. You were right. I've grown a lot more in just a few weeks than I have ever before." Clark nodded, thinking he was done, but he wasn't. "And I realized something. If someone else had the topic, I'm not sure I would have felt they were doing it justice. Like I said, nobody else can tell the story I can. I'm almost positive I wouldn't have felt satisfied with how anyone else represented Human Trafficking. I'm too close to the topic to release it like that."

Clark didn't say anything, so Jason opened the door. Before he could fully step out, however, a question came to him. "Hey Clark?"

"Yes, Jason?"

Jason hesitated, but he figured this wouldn't exactly be the most personal thing he'd said so far. "You're pretty close with Mr. Wayne, right?"

Clark narrowed his eyes slightly but nodded. "Yes, you could say that. Why?"

"I received the Wayne Scholarship this year, remember? I was wondering if you know... well..."

"If I know why he picked you?" Jason nodded, and Clark sighed. "It doesn't really happen the way you're thinking it does, Jason. Bruce doesn't read through every qualifying application and just pick his favorite."

Jason swallowed, nodding. "Yeah, right. I probably should have known. There's probably some board or committee or something at the Wayne Foundation that handles all that stuff. Sorry I asked. I'll just-"

"It isn't quite that formal, but I guess you could call it a committee if you wanted to. The qualifying applications are distributed among the previous winners of the scholarship, and they all pick one that they feel deserves the scholarship the most. Bruce then looks over those and makes an executive decision."

Jason stared at Clark, wide-eyed. It was in that moment that he remembered that Clark had won the Wayne Scholarship one year. "And do you have any idea which of the previous winners suggested me?"

"They're all distributed evenly among us and divided up at random. But you happened to fall into my stack." Jason's mouth opened to reply, but he couldn't think of anything to stay, so he just stood there, in the doorway, staring at Clark Kent with his mouth hanging open. "Bruce almost didn't pick you though. He was going to go with someone else."

"Why?"

"You have no formal education. To pick some kid off the street who'd never so much as taken a math class and shove him into a full-time collegiate education... Well, Bruce wasn't sure you'd be able to handle it, and if you couldn't it would have been a waste of the Wayne Foundation's resources, especially since another kid could have won that scholarship this year. GCU wasn't going to admit you either, for the same reasons."

Jason felt like his brain was short-circuiting. "So then... why did they all change their minds?"

Clark smiled, big and genuine. "Two things, your essay and Ra's al Ghul's recommendation letter. They were both quite moving, and they inspired Bruce to give you a shot. The fact that Bruce decided you were worth a shot meant that the school came to the same conclusion. He basically sponsored you with enough money that the school decided, 'What the hell? He can't do any harm anyway.'"

Jason shook his head. "I barely believe it."

"Well you should. Your essay was the best one of those I've ever read. You more than earned it, and so far you've proven to do a good job."

Jason swallowed around the lump in his throat. "Thank you, sir."

"It's Clark, remember?" Jason nodded and Clark smiled again. "I should probably tell you one more thing before you go, then it's time for my next meeting. When a student wins the Wayne Scholarship, such a large amount of money is invested that they are assigned a - well, the first word that came to mind was 'accountability partner', but that's not right, and liaison is way off, too. Let's call it - hell, how about a military term. I'm your supervising officer. Since I suggested you to Bruce, it's my job to make sure you stay on track with your classes. If you get a toe out of line, I'm supposed to gently persuade you to put it back where it belongs. I get all of your grades for all of your classes, and I'm supposed to make sure you do well enough in all of them to be worth the Wayne Foundation's investment."

Jason's eyebrows were so far up his hairline, they disappeared. "And what happens if I fail?"

Clark took a deep breath, a sardonic expression on his face. "Simply put, I get fired."

"Holy shit."

"Yeah."

"Well," Jason said, trying to wrap his head around way too much information. "I'll be sure to do a good job then."

Clark smirked. "I should hope you would do that anyway, but thanks for the affirmation. I appreciate it."

Jason chuckled softly, unsure how he managed to find something funny in that moment. "Yes, sir. I should vacate your office before the next student gets here." Clark nodded his agreements. They said their goodbyes and Jason left, bumping into Jimmy on the way out. Shaking his head, Jason decided he needed another milkshake. This was definitely a good time for some comfort food.

Chapter Text

He couldn’t believe he actually did it. He told Clark. There had been a part of him that was telling him not to – not to trust him, not to tell him, not to be vulnerable – but he needed to get it out. He’d spent the last three years festering in the guilt of being free while so many others were still trapped where they were.

Jason understood what people were talking about when they said ‘Survivor’s Guilt’. That had practically been his whole life ever since he escaped when he was 16. He couldn’t stop asking himself why. Why was he free while others weren’t? Why did he get to escape while others died trying? Why did he get a second chance? Why did he get to go to college and study something he was passionate about? Why did he get a mentor like Ra’s al Ghul who helped him so much without asking anything in return?

Why did Jason get someone as amazing as Tim when every person he left behind got masters and owners, rapists and abusers? Why did he have the freedom to wait to have sex with his boyfriend when so many people were forced to have sex with absolute strangers every day?

Why did he get to move on with his life?

He didn’t really. That part of his life would always be with him, and he’d never be able to fully escape it. Part of his mind would always live in the state of ‘rebellious slave who would not be broken’. Part of him would always want to fight back against any kind of authority, against anyone who wanted to control him.

He knew why he couldn’t hold it in any longer. He knew why it was such a relief to tell Clark, and why it would be even more of a relief when he managed to write his Final and get his story out to the world. Maybe then he wouldn’t be the only survivor. Maybe then he wouldn’t be the only slave to be free. Maybe then the people who had done so much to hurt him would finally be hurt back.

Who knows? Maybe Jen was still alive. Maybe by telling his story, she would be one of the people to be saved.

It was hard to tell Clark. It would have been hard to tell anyone, but a teacher? Someone who had so much control over his future? It had felt impossible when he wrote his name on that signup sheet. But he’d realized, as he rehearsed what he was going to say and how much detail he really wanted to give, that of all the people to tell, Clark might be one of the best. Of course, Jason wanted to tell Tim. He wanted to tell him so bad. But their relationship was still new, and Jason didn’t want to scare him off.

Clark, though… He’d somehow managed to earn Jason’s respect throughout the first few weeks of class. And hearing him talk about all the issues in the world, hearing him talk about ‘old-fashioned notions’ and ‘the world is bigger than you are’ and growing up in a small town and wanting to change the world- somehow he knew that Clark wouldn’t betray him. Clark would care. Jason hadn’t felt that certainty in a while – if ever – and he wanted to trust that feeling. He wanted to take a step toward healing and recovering from the awful things that had happened to him.

Because he related to Toha. He knew what it was to be abused. He knew what it was to have his body sold like goods at a supermarket. He knew the feeling of being abandoned by the woman who was supposed to protect you, and he knew the feeling of being hurt over and over again and not having the power to stop it. Jason had had days where he was raped by more than just 9 different ‘customers’ a day. He’d also had days where one person rented him out for a week of torture disguised as sex. He’d had men and women alike treat him like a toy for their pleasure, and he’d seen it happen to people younger than him. The youngest he’d seen was just four years old, and Jason didn’t doubt that there was another four year old out there right now, being taken, being sold, being used for the first time and counting the seconds until it was over. Except it would never be over.

Unless someone did something. Unless someone stepped up and told the world that is was happening, told them to open their eyes and look – look for the four year old, for the fourteen year old, for the little girls and boys, for the Jason’s and the Jen’s and the Toha’s.

If Toha could tell the whole world what happened to her, Jason could tell Clark Kent.

Because when Toha was saved, everyone else in the brothel was saved too.

Who knew how many could be saved if Jason came forward?

Jason didn’t know, but he wanted to.

So he told Clark Kent.

And he had no regrets.

Three years was a long time to live with that kind of guilt. Jason just hoped that this – telling his story – would be enough to make it finally go away.

*****

After he told Clark, Jason’s life – thank God – became actually pretty simple.

He went to his classes, he went to work, he worked on his assignments, spent an inordinate amount of time on his Final for journalism, and spent every second of free time he had with Tim.

He and Tim were actually doing really good. They'd progressed to the kissing stage of their relationship, fantastically, and did it quite often. In fact, every Thursday, when Jason went to Tim's house to 'study Shakespeare', the whole tutoring portion of the evening was spent exchanging kisses, to the point where Jason was pretty sure Tim didn't get a thing out of it. The only time they weren't kissing was actually during their weekly movie, when Tim refused to allow any funny business on the grounds of, "Movies are a part of our culture, Jay. And they're awesome. You need to pay attention. Movies are very important."

Tim was extremely pleased when he learned that of the couple dozen movies Jason had seen, the original Star Wars trilogy was his favorite. Jason hadn't seen all of the Harry Potter movies because after the first one, he'd realized it was based on a book series so he just decided to read the books instead. After all, he knew they were probably better anyway.

Taking their movie times very seriously, Tim actually made a fancy checklist and everything, working his way through the list religiously. At some point they ended up watching multiple movies every Thursday, as well as random movie nights during other days of the week ("One movie a week would mean a literal forever to just get all the Disney movies in, Jay! We’ve got to step it up."). They pulled an all-nighter one time in order to marathon the Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings in one, very long night. Jason was pretty much convinced beyond any possible doubt that Tim had literally the best taste in movies ever.

Of course, movies wasn't enough for Tim. TV shows made it onto the list of things that Jason just had to watch, and it wasn't mostly anime, which Jason was more or less pretty current on. Granted, he hadn't exactly seen all 400 episodes of Naruto Shippuden, but he was pretty well informed. No, Tim's TV show list included things like NCIS, Criminal Minds, Star Trek (Jason was actually excited about that one), Star Gate ("It's the third member of the great Star Trifecta, Jay, you have to watch it!), the original MacGyver, and more. Jason was pretty sure he'd be well into his thirties before he could manage to watch all of those, but Tim was confident that, with enough dedication and commitment, the two would be able to watch everything on the list by the end of the school year.

At one point, about two weeks after his meeting with Clark, Jason went as far as to suggest that he watch some of the things on the list on his own time. "Then I can get even farther on the list, and you won't have to wait so long for me to start getting all of your pop culture references," he had said.

Tim had looked positively wounded, though he managed to cover it up rather quickly. "You want to- um, I mean, yeah, you could, sure. Nothing stopping you. Much more efficient. You should totally do that, actually, don't know why I didn't think of it mysel-"

"Tim."

"Hmm?"

"Shut up. I want to watch them with you."

Tim had swallowed thickly and nodded, trying to conceal how obviously happy he was to hear that. "Good, good. That's good. But if you change your mind-"

"No, Timbo. I won't change my mind." Jason mentally shook his head at Tim's obvious lack of confidence. "And if you wanted me to watch them all with you, you could have just said so. I'm not going to break up with my boyfriend because he wants to spend time with me."

Tim had given him a small, but pleased smile, though Jason could tell he was embarrassed by the fact that Jason had read him so easily.

Jason simply pulled him in for a kiss by his chin, smiled, and pulled Tim into his lap (he really was so small in comparison) to watch the next movie. They fell asleep like that, and Jason was more than happy when he woke up to Tim drooling on his shoulder, hair sticking up in every direction and creases from Jason's shirt on his cheek.

Jason was incredibly pleased with his new routine. He was pretty sure he could keep it up for another four years, and he had no doubt that there were some parts (re: everything about Tim) that he could see himself keeping up for a lot longer.

He was, however, finding it incredibly difficult to write his editorial essay for his journalism final. He had known it would be hard, telling the story cohesively and passionately enough to get the point across without drawing it out or leaving out important, but personal details that he'd rather people didn't know. Even though he wasn't explicitly stating that the boy in his essay was him, he knew people would connect the dots. You didn't need to know Jason personally in order to figure out that there were certain things that a victim didn't tell journalists, and there were certain things you just couldn't know unless you were actually there.

Figuring that his professor was there for a reason, Jason had been meeting with Clark almost weekly to consult with him about his essay. They both agreed that, whether or not Jason won the contest, this story was an important one to get out to the public, and they both wanted to see it done right, and not only because it could widely spread the truth about modern day slavery. This was Jason’s life story, and a highly sensitive, highly traumatic one at that. If this was going to be done, it needed to be done right. If Jason was going to put his life story out there for the whole world to see his pain and trauma, it needed to be a story well told.

Reliving the most difficult parts of his life had reminded Jason of just how grateful he was to his mentor for getting him where he was. Ra's al Ghul had played an important role in him not turning to a life of crime, much more getting into college. A sixteen year old with no parents, no education, no connections, and a shady past meant finding an actual job that paid enough even to feed himself was incredibly difficult. Street-life as a kid and then life as a sex slave during his pre-teen and teen years, however, had given Jason a certain knack for beating people up. He was strong, and tough. He was stubborn and proud and unbreakable. Gangs and crime rings really liked those qualities in henchmen, and Jason was the poster child for a rags-to-crime story.

So the fact that Ra's had taken him in, helped him get his GED, provided him a means of getting a legitimate job, and helping him get into college was a big deal. Jason felt incredibly indebted to the man, and he knew there wasn't really much he could do to repay him. Not that Ra's needed anything from Jason at all. The man was quite rich, almost as rich as Bruce Wayne, and he made a very good living as a private military contractor. Any repayment Jason made would likely go unnoticed among al Ghul's slew of wealth and possessions.

Somehow, that only made Jason feel more indebted.

Ra's' involvement in Jason's life had dropped quite a bit once he'd gotten accepted to GCU, with the Wayne Scholarship to boot. A bi-monthly check in the mail worth a couple hundred dollars was the total of Ra's continued investment in Jason. He'd gotten him his chance at education, so Jason had to get himself the rest of the way there. The only thing Ra's had ever asked for in return was a weekly letter, preferably hand written, to update Ra's on how he was doing in his studies and personal life. Jason had kept up his side of the deal, and Ra's sent the money without any more communication.

So you could imagine Jason's surprise when he got a call from Ra's, and the first words he heard the older man say in a little over two months were, "Jason. We need to talk."

How could he refuse?

Chapter Text

Ra's was smug.

That wasn't exactly anything unusual. Ra's was generally always pretty smug, as he usually had done some brilliant thing that warranted his smugness. You see, he was a genius of monumental proportions. Master strategist, master manipulator, and master match-maker were some of his many titles. The first two would make sense to anyone on the outside looking in. After all, only a brilliant strategist could have accomplished what he had done in the realm of private contracting. Military contractors have always been a force to be reckoned with, but the name of Ra's al Ghul's company was the most successful of them all, and he had more profitable contracts than any other.

Master manipulator is also quite obvious. People always knew that they'd been had by Ra's. The important thing, however, was that they didn't actually know until it was already over. The best example was probably his daughter. Poor Talia never did figure out the truth, that she never really had wanted to be on his side. Up till the day she died, God rest her soul, she was completely convinced that everything she did was for herself, never quite realizing that it had really benefited Ra's more than it ever did her. Then again, everything benefited Ra's.

After all, he designed it that way.

Still, Ra's considered many of his greatest achievements to be feats of match-making. It didn't sound all that impressive, not to anyone who wasn't in the know. And nobody actually was in the know. His wife never knew that he'd manipulated her into marrying him until she'd served her purpose. When he realized she would never bare him a son... well, he took what he could get and disposed of the baggage. Talia had ended up not actually being as much of a disappointment as he had originally thought a daughter would be, but he gave his parenting skills all the credit for that.

He had wondered for a time if Bruce Wayne had figured out that he had set him up with his daughter. Then Ra's realized that if he had figured it out, Bruce probably would have confronted him about it or something, and he probably wouldn't have fought the divorce so hard. That man held out as long as he could, even lasting until Talia had already given birth to their child. That wasn't part of the plan – she was supposed to give birth after the divorce to give Bruce less of a claim to the child – but Ra's had managed to make it work out anyway, and he was more than satisfied with the fact that his one and only grandchild was a boy.

Hopefully, his grandson would be even less of a disappointment than his daughter. Once he got his hands on him, that is.

If only Bruce hadn't been such an insufferable family man, he might have finally gotten that son a lot sooner. But no, Bruce had to fight for custody, and that fool actually won the case. Ra's had been so close to winning it once and for all.

But that was alright. After all, he still had a player on the board.

Not that Jason knew that was what he was.

Ra's truly did consider that couple to be his finest work of match-making. Though he detested homosexual relationships, he knew that Jason was gay, and he was also aware that his best luck at getting a foothold in the Wayne house was through one of Bruce's so-called 'sons'. His 'daughters' were too unreliable. Cassandra was too perceptive and observant, so she would have never fallen for a man who had anything other than honorable intentions. Not that Jason knew his purpose, but still. Stephanie was simply a wild thing, and she spent too much time traveling to be of use for his intentions. Even now, she was backpacking through Europe, though Ra's himself had no idea what part of that activity was attractive to anyone, much less a woman.

And, though she wasn't really a daughter, Barbara Gordon was an option he had quickly removed from the list. It hadn't taken him long to realize she was asexual. Her relationship with the Grayson boy had only lasted so long because of their friendship. No, there was no way she would have fallen for his ploy.

If he was going to use the 'sons' of the Wayne family, he would have tried using a female pawn instead of Jason, but it was obvious to everyone but the individuals themselves that both the Grayson and Drake boys were very, very gay. Grayson was quite clearly in love with that red-headed friend of his. Drake, on the other hand, was completely unattached. He had no friends, except for that Kent boy, but he was already with Cassandra when Ra's had settled on Jason. Drake was introverted, anti-social, and convinced his chances of finding 'love' were more dismal than rain. He was the perfect target, and easily enough manipulated for Ra's' purposes.

He'd had several young men on standby as potential vessels. Some he'd had to buy from various trafficking rings, but others, like Jason, he'd simply been lucky enough to find after they escaped those same rings or had only recently run away from home. He spent quite a deal of time running his own psychological tests on his candidates, determining which one was the best match for quick chemistry with the young Drake. Jason had passed every test far ahead of all the others, and his background made him the perfect person to feel utterly indebted to Ra's. This indebtedness was sure to force Jason to comply with Ra's very simple requests. After all, Ra's gave him everything he had, from his education to his job to his love life. It would be all too easy for Ra's to take it away.

Alas, Jason was to become the first of Ra's victims to know that their relationship had been arranged from the start. Ra's had had such a good track record of keeping them in the dark and making them think it just hadn't worked out when he was ready for the couples to split. It was unfortunate he'd have to break his streak with Jason, but he wasn't sure if there was really as efficient a way to convince Jason to cooperate.

After all, Jason was quite certain he was falling in love with Timothy Drake. It would be all too easy to inform Jason that his relationship would be over with a snap of Ra's' fingers, should the young man choose to... misbehave.

Yes, Jason would come around, Ra's would have what he needed, Bruce Wayne's life would be ruined, and he'd have Damian right where he belonged - with Ra's.

Then he could dispose of Jason and be done with this distasteful 'mentor' business.

All in a day's work for the great Ra's al Ghul.

Chapter Text

Jason didn't know what to think. Ra's had sent a car for him, and it was waiting outside his dorm building before he even hung up the phone. He'd taken a moment to make himself look a bit more presentable, knowing the high expectations of the man he was about to see. Jason then got in the car and allowed it to drive him away.

Having not heard directly from Ra's since he received the Wayne Scholarship, Jason was understandably caught off guard at the fact that Ra's had actually phoned him himself. Yes, Ra's was his mentor, but he was also an incredibly busy man. It wouldn't have been difficult to have an assistant call him, or to just have the driver of the car come up and get him. Something about that told him that this was a much bigger deal than the casual tone of Ra's' voice had suggested.

If he was being honest with himself, Jason knew that he was really more worried than anything else. What would have to happen for Ra's Al Ghul to call him out of the blue for a meeting, a meeting that hadn't seemed to be planned very far ahead of time. Ra's was a man of schedule, organization, and preparedness. Having an unplanned meeting was extremely out of character for him, and Jason wondered what kind of circumstances prompted a man like Ra's to deviate from his schedule.

When the car arrived at Ra's Al Ghul's mansion, something that could be called modest when one considered how rich he way, Jason reluctantly stepped out of the car. He was grateful to Ra's, and he was most certainly in the man's debt, but spending time with the man had always been... uncomfortable. He did not look forward to doing so now, but he forced himself to walk to the door. The only sign of his lack of confidence was a thick swallow as the driver opened the door to the mansion.

Walking in, Jason made his way to the library, where he knew Ra's would want to have their meeting. Sure enough, that's where Jason found him, sitting in a high back chair behind a desk by the windows. Taking a silent deep breath, Jason walked over and sat down in a chair opposite Ra's. "Good afternoon, sir."

Ra's looked up from a book, pretending to have not noticed Jason's arrival. "Ah, Jason. How are you doing today?"

Jason blinked. Ra's had done a lot for him, yes, but he'd never been one for pleasantries. This whole day was just a big bucket of weird. "I'm fine, sir. How have you been?"

Ra's was apparently done with the niceties, because he didn't answer the question. "How has school been doing? You mentioned in a letter that your favorite class was Mr. Kent's Journalism class, right?"

Nodding, Jason couldn't help but wonder where all of this was coming from. "Yes, sir. It's been the most challenging, but it's also right up my alley."

"Wonderful. And you've been getting to know Mr. Kent, right? As well as Bruce Wayne's family?"

"Yes, sir."

"Have you had the opportunity to thank Mr. Wayne for your scholarship?"

"Yes, sir, I have. I was over at his home for dinner a couple weeks ago, and I found a moment to thank him then."

"Is that the only time you've been over there for dinner, Jason?"

Jason narrowed his eyes slightly, confused by the game of cat and mouse. Ra's had usually been much more direct in their previous conversations. "No, sir. I've eaten there a few times a week for almost a month now."

Ra's nodded, and he suddenly looked very, very pleased. The almost maniacal grin made Jason extremely nervous, to say the least, and he wondered if he should start keeping some information to himself. "And have you had the opportunity to meet Damian?"

Jason's eyebrows wrinkled, revealing his obvious confusion. "Damian? As in, Damian Wayne?"

Ra's rolled his eyes. "Well, it was Damian Al Ghul." He exhaled harshly and looked away from Jason, fisting his hand tightly. "First Wayne had to own him with full custody, and then he had to own him with his surname. Typical."

Jason wasn't really any less confused at this point. "Al Ghul?" he said dubiously.

Ra's sighed. "Yes, Jason, Al Ghul. Do try to keep up. Damian is my grandson."

And now Jason understood. Jason had known that Ra's had a daughter, what with the pictures dispersed throughout the house. Ra's wasn't a sentimental man, but the few mementos and decorations he had involved a young, very beautiful woman who looked too much like Ra's not to be his daughter. She must have been Damian's mother. "Oh," he replied, rather dumbly.

"Yes, oh. So have you met him yet or not?"

Nodding vigorously, Jason shifted his position on the chair, suddenly finding himself to be rather uncomfortable in it. "Yes, sir. I'm met him. He's almost always present when I have dinner over there. He's a smart kid. Very large vocabulary." That was the only nice thing Jason could think to say about the demon brat. Though now Jason was starting to figure out what Wally had meant all those weeks ago about Damian's mother being the Wicked Witch of the West. If she had turned out anything like her father, he was sure that she had been an... interesting woman, to say the least. Still, if Bruce had liked her enough to have a kid with her...

"Yes, well, we al Ghuls have always been intelligent. I have had no reason to doubt that Damian would inherit that trait. He was already showing promise last time I saw him."

Jason nodded, pretending to be interested in what Ra's was saying. Actually, if he was being honest, he was a little interested. After all, he had never seen Ra's show so much pride for anything other than himself. "I'm sure. When did you last see him?" Jason found it interesting that Clark had known Ra's was his mentor but hadn't mentioned the connection between him and Bruce's son.

Ra's suddenly looked furious. Jason swallowed thickly, trying to appear as though Ra's change in countenance hadn't affected him at all. "I have not seem Damian since he was a toddler, thanks to Wayne's utter refusal to allow me any visitation rights since he won custody. That wretched man dared to keep Damian to himself all these years." A gleam appeared in Ra's' eyes, and Jason knew immediately that he was not going to like the next words to come out of Ra's' mouth. "Not for much longer, though."

Clearing his throat, Jason shifted his position again. "What do you mean by that, sir?"

Ra's took a moment before replying, though it wasn't with an answer to Jason's question. "I've done an awful lot for you, haven't I, Jason?" Jason nodded. "You could say you owe almost everything to me." Jason nodded again, though he wasn't sure to what extent he agreed. "And, of course, it could also be said that I could," Ra's gave him what was undeniably an evil smile, "take it all away?"

Jason's eyes widened and his eyebrows shot up into his hairline. He opened his mouth to reply, but all that came out was a surprised stutter. "Wa-what are you...?"

Ra's stood up and strode around his desk, coming to lean over Jason. His long, lean frame was quite menacing from this angle, but Jason had just enough experience with this kind of thing to keep from shrinking away. He'd kicked his pimp in the face so hard one time that he lost three teeth; there was no way he was shying away from some rich guy with a creepy grin.

"Oh, Jason, you poor fool. You really think Timothy Drake cares about you for who you are, don't you? Please," he scoffed. "If the young Drake knew the truth about your past - I know you haven't told him, despite telling your professor - he would leave you in a heartbeat. I put the two of you together, and with only a few words I can rip you apart again. The same is true of your schooling, your scholarship, your job, a majority of your belongings... Shall I continue, Jason?" 'Menacing' was definitely the wrong word to describe this man. He was purely villainous, and Jason didn't know how he hadn't seen it earlier.

"What do you want from me," he ground out through gritted teeth.

Ra's grinned. "The same thing I always wanted from you, Jason. The reason I took you off those streets. I had considered buying you from your pimp, but you'd escaped by the time I made a decision, so I didn't have to." Jason swallowed, and Ra's stood up straight again and leaned his hip against the front of the desk. "You really were the perfect specimen for my plan, I knew that quite early on. Clearly I was right, seeing as everything has worked perfectly. You have inserted yourself into the lives of the Wayne family, they trust you, and, thanks to your relationship with Drake, they'll never suspect your true purpose."

Jason's eyes narrowed, his heart trying to shut out Ra's' words while his mind reached for more information. "What purpose is that?" It was almost a growl, but Ra's didn't seem to notice in his smug self-satisfaction, the bastard.

"Information."

Jason rolled his eyes. He was getting tired of Ra's circling around the point without ever getting to it. "What information?"

"All of it. I want to know everything. What you know about the Waynes, their friends, their activities, their routines, the layout of Wayne Manor, and anything else you know. Keep me informed, keep me up to date on all information, and use your connection to them to find out more. Drake will think you are taking an interest in his family and his life, and you will be able to keep your life. No harm done, right?"

Jason narrowed his eyes. "And what do you want this information for?"

Ra's paused before sighing. "He's my grandson, Jason. I only want to make sure he's alright."

Jason was no less suspicious than before. It wasn't in Ra's' nature to be concerned about others, and there was no way he would go through all this effort just to spy on his grandson. "I don't believe you," he said evenly.

Ra's growled and leaned down over him again, their faces inches apart. "I don't really care, Jason. Do what I tell you or I will take everything that you care about away from you. You will lose everything, unless you cooperate!" Ra's was seething, but he got himself under control and stood up straight. He walked back around his desk to sit in his chair. "So what is it going to be, Jason?"

Jason swallowed, and he took a few moments to think. Jason knew Ra's didn't just want to 'make sure Damian was alright'. Ra's had other plans, plans that could hurt the Wayne family, whom he had come to view as a kind of surrogate family. Jason didn't know what was going on, but he couldn't just cooperate and let it happen.

He took a deep breath and calmly stood. Making even eye contact with Ra's and not betraying anything other than solid confidence, Jason said, "No."

Ra's eyebrows shot up into his hairline, but Jason's expression didn't change. Ra's shot up out of his chair like a rocket and leaned halfway across the desk. "I suggest you think very carefully, Jason. You've only got one last chance to accept my - very generous - offer. You will lose everything, I'm not bluffing."

Jason resisted the grimace that threatened his expression at the feeling of Ra's' breath on his face. Never in his life had Jason been more repulsed to be this close to Ra’s as he was in that moment, and he found himself just as disgusted by his 'mentor' as he had been by the various men and women who had raped him over the years. Ra's’ threat was one of rape, but instead of taking his body, he suggesting taking everything that had come to matter to him over the last few months.

Overcome with a repulsion on a level he'd yet to experience before that moment, Jason coughed right in Ra's' face, and he barely managed to hide his smile as Ra's reared back with a look of sheer nausea on his face. "I have thought very carefully, Ra's. I'm not interested in anything you have to say, and if I lose everything to protect the people I care about, I bet it'll be worth it."

With smug defiance, Jason sauntered his way out of Ra's' mansion, ignoring every curse his repugnant former-mentor yelled at his back. He reached into his pocket and pulled out his phone to stop the voice-recording app that he had left recording the whole time. With how worried he was about this conversation, his gut told him to have a back-up plan. His gut was right, and he figured that recording might just come in handy.

Chapter Text

Jason had ran the whole way back to his dorm. He couldn't really believe the encounter he'd just had, and he spent the journey back thinking over his decision and the wisdom of it. He knew it was right not to betray Tim and his family, but he did wonder if it wouldn't have been more intelligent to pretend to accept Ra's' offer in order to get more information about Ra's' intentions or something. As he reached the door of his apartment, he shrugged. His decision had been made, and there was no going back or undoing it.

Jason unlocked the door and entered his dorm. When he looked up from the doorknob, he stopped in his tracks, unable to walk any farther into the room due to the absolute mess on the floor. Jason's belongings had been strewn all over the floor, and both his bed and his desk where stripped bare. The door swung closed behind him as he surveyed his room in shock.

He practically choked on air when he saw his laptop smashed on the floor in the corner. His essay for Journalism was on that laptop. The outline, the rough draft, notes and research - thousands of words... just gone. He slid to the floor, his back against the door, unable to look away in his horror.

He sat there for probably an hour, grieving the loss of all those hours and hours of work and collaboration with Professor Kent. He'd have to start over from scratch, though he wasn't sure how it would all work. The deadline for the contest was coming up, and Jason didn't know if he would really have enough time to get it all done. If only there was a way to save it-

Tim. IT-genius Tim. The computer science major, Timothy Jackson Love-of-Jason's-Life-and-Most-Amazing-Person-Ever Drake.

Swallowing down every negative emotion and fear inside of him, Jason collected every ounce of hope inside him as he collected every piece of his laptop off the floor. He didn't know what Tim would need and what he wouldn't, but he wanted to be sure. He put the pieces in his bag, collected anything else that looked salvageable, and wrote a note for Roy that he didn't know who had destroyed the room (but had thankfully left Roy's stuff alone), but that he would talk to the police and the university and do what he could to clean it up later. He went to the door but hesitated to open it. He looked over his shoulder at the dorm room that had been his home for months now. He didn't know how Ra's had managed it so fast, but he did know something.

There was no way Ra's was getting away with it. And there was no way Jason was going to let that psychotic sociopath hurt Tim's family. Hell no.

With renewed determination, Jason opened his door, only to notice the piece of paper taped to the front of it - the piece of paper he missed on his way in because he was too preoccupied by his thoughts. He only managed to read the heading before he dropped his bag and ran to the bathroom to empty the meager contents of his stomach.

Eviction Notice.

*****

Once Jason cleaned himself up, he retrieved his bag and began the walk to Wayne Manor. Tim had a class that day, but it was almost over, so by the time Jason got there on foot, Tim should have made it back in his car. They might even get there at the same time.

During his walk, he made sure to think as little as possible. Jason wasn't the panicking type. He wasn't the kind of person to freak out or lose his footing when something went wrong or just didn't go the way he expected. Jason had always been the go-with-the-flow type of guy, so the way that the day's events were affecting him didn't sit well. It was a sign, one he was reading crystal clear. He'd obviously come to depend on his surroundings. His education, his job, his boyfriend, his life in general - he had begun to care far more than he was supposed to. The life he had lead up until his acceptance at GCU had taught him the importance of not getting attached, of not valuing anything you have that exceeds yourself, and of not depending on anyone or anything else. You have to be enough for yourself, because everything else comes and goes, and nothing can be counted on. Nothing but yourself.

So, knowing this, how could Jason have let himself get to this point?

He knew the answer. It was complacency. He had felt secure. Between working a decent job, getting good grades in all his classes, having a steady relationship, and not having to worry about where he was going to sleep that night or when he'd get to eat again, Jason had relaxed. He had gotten settled in to a life that probably was never really his to have, and reality had come to wake Goldie Locks from her sleep.

Still, Jason wasn't so sure he regretted any of it. He sure as hell didn't regret Tim. He loved Tim, he knew that, had known it for a little while, and he knew there was no way what Ra's said about him was right. Tim wouldn't up and leave him because of a difficult past. He was a better person than that, and Jason liked to think that Tim loved him back.

Confidence regained and hope alive, Jason arrived at Wayne Manor to find that Tim's car was already in the garage. He rang the doorbell and Alfred opened up to let him in. "Good afternoon, Master Todd. How are you doing today?"

Jason wasn't entirely sure how to answer that question, but he knew Alfred's ninja skills would make sure the butler knew if Jason was lying. "I've had better days," he confessed. "Is Tim home?"

Alfred nodded. "He's in his room. He only arrived a few minutes ago himself."

"Awesome, thanks, Alfred." He turned to head up to the second floor when he realized he should probably tell Bruce that Ra's had an... invested interest in Damian. "Alfred, is Mr. Bruce home?"

Shaking his head, Alfred said, "No, Master Todd. Master Bruce is out to lunch with Master Kent. They should return within the hour, though, and I can let you know when they arrive, if you'd like."

Jason nodded vehemently. "Please do. I need to speak with him as soon as he gets here."

Alfred gave Jason a thinly veiled look of concern, but he merely nodded his understanding. "If that will be all, I have some things to attend to."

"Of course. Thanks again, Alfred." Jason ran up the stairs, unaware of the phone call Alfred urgently went to make.

Jason took the stairs two at a time. Ra's' words were starting to get to him in spite of himself, and he half wondered if he would get to Tim's room and not find him. What if Ra's had kidnapped him or killed him or trashed his room or told him some horrible lie or blackmailed him into braking up with Jason or-

All of these thoughts rushed through his head at warp speed and by the time he got to Tim's room he didn't even bother to knock, so worried that something unimaginably terrible had happened. He threw the door open and it banged against the wall. Tim jumped at the noise and turned to face him, half out of his chair. "Jason?" he asked, startled and surprised to see his normally calm boyfriend looking scared and pale. "Jason, what's-"

He couldn't finish his sentence before Jason had sprinted across the room and pulled him into his arms. The taller man buried his head in Tim's shoulder and breathed deeply. He had read in a lot of books about people falling in love with the way someone smelled and how their smell permeated everything they wore and whatnot. Jason had never bought it, had always said, "Bullshit," in his head as he read it, but in that moment he swore that he noticed Tim's smell. He smelled like home. He smelled safe.

"Jay," Tim whispered, returning the hug and holding his boyfriend close. "What happened?"

Jason shook his head, unsure of where to start and what to say. In that moment he couldn't even quite remember what had actually happened, overwhelmed with the feeling of calm he got from Tim's room and Tim's arms and Tim's smell.

In that moment, all Jason could think to say was, "I love you."

Tim had gasped loudly, and his whole body froze. For a moment, Jason wondered if that was the wrong thing to say, if it was too soon, or if Tim just really wasn't as in to him as Jason had thought and hoped. But then Tim hugged him tighter and Jason relaxed again into the embrace. Tim pulled away slightly, trying to see Jason's face, but he was reluctant to loosen his grip or remove his face from where it was resting in the crook of Tim's neck.

He managed to pull himself away and was glad he did when he saw the joyful smile on Tim's face. He mentally berated himself for not being able to return it when the smile dimmed and was replaced by concern. "Jay, what's wrong?" Jason hesitated to answer and Tim sighed. "Jay, I love you too, but I know something's up and if you don't tell me then I'm just going to have to stand here wondering who died."

Jason managed to crack a small smile at that, mostly because Tim said he loved him too. He swallowed thickly and took a deep breath. "I don't know where to start, Timmers."

Tim rose an eyebrow, not unkindly. "People always say start at the beginning, but that’s bull. Give a basic summary, then give the details people ask for."

Jason hesitated, trying to figure out how to summarize his crazy life. “Okay. I- Tim, you might not even want that much information. I don’t know if-“

“Jason Todd, I just told you I love you. And I’m worried about you. Don’t you dare minimize my concern by sugar coating the truth.” Tim looked very stern, more stern than Jason had ever seen him. He hadn’t even looked that stern when he’d ranted for over an hour on why Star Trek was the superior member of the Star Trifecta. It was actually just a little bit scary.

“Fine, then.” Jason swallowed past a lump in his throat. He didn’t want to say it, didn’t want to face the possible reactions Tim might have. This wasn’t like telling Clark. If Clark had reacted badly, then it would hurt yeah, but he was just a teacher. Tim was different. Jason loved Tim. If Tim didn’t- What if Tim couldn’t even look at him? What if Tim treated him like some broken, fragile human? What if Tim thought he had too much baggage or was afraid of hurting him or-

No. Tim wasn’t like that. Tim loved him back. Tim wouldn’t leave him or hate him or treat him like a wounded bird. Tim wasn’t weakness and selfishness and fear. Tim had fire in his veins and courage in his heart. When Tim found out he lived on the streets, he was impressed. When he discovered that Jason had basically been deprived of culture in general since before he hit double digits, he simply introduced him to all the culture he’d missed. Every turn, when Tim understood more of what Jason’s life was like growing up, he just pushed forward and worked with Jason through all of it.

Jason could trust Tim. Tim was worthy of that trust.

He took a deep breath. Then everything came out in a single exhale. “When I was eleven I got kidnapped by human traffickers and was sold as a sex slave until I escaped when I was 16, then Ra’s Al Ghul, Damian’s asshole of a grandfather, tricked and manipulated me into letting him be my ‘mentor’, and then today he tried to blackmail me, and, I mean, of course I turned him down and when I got back to my dorm, I found my room trashed, my laptop,” he held up the bag with the pieces of his PC, the fragments clinking together audibly, “smashed to bits, and an eviction notice on my door, so I was wondering if there was any way you could get my documents off my computer because I have an important essay due in a couple weeks that is worth most of my grade, and also I need to tell Bruce about Ra’s and that Damian might be in danger, and actually all of you might be in danger, because this is fucking Ra’s we’re talking about and he doesn’t stop until he gets what he wants, which I’m pretty sure is Damian.”

Tim didn't say anything. He simply stood there, a crazy mix of emotions flashing across his face faster than Jason could register them. For probably a whole minute, Tim thought and processed and said nothing, and Jason spent the whole time panicking. He knew he shouldn't have said all that. He knew it was too much at once, and he knew he should have talked about it slower, had a longer conversation about it so that they could both take their time and he could properly answer any questions Tim had. He had meant to do just that, had planned to do that while he was going back to his dorm after his visit at Ra's'. He knew he had to tell Tim before Ra's could, that way it would come from him, and from the look of shock slowly appearing on Tim's face, Jason was absolutely sure he had managed to beat Ra's to the punch.

But at what cost?

"What did he want?"

Jason was startled at the question. "What?"

Tim cleared his throat. "You said he tried to blackmail you. What did he want?"

Jason still couldn't read Tim's expression, and it worried him greatly. "Information."

"About?"

He hesitated.

"Information about what, Jay?" Tim's voice was both soft and wary, and it scared Jason more than anything ever had.

"Your family. Damian, mostly, and Bruce. Anything I knew, anything I saw, anything any of you said. He wanted anything I had. He told me it was because he was concerned about Damian, but I knew that wasn't the whole truth."

Tim swallowed. "You said no."

"Yes." Jason quirked his head to the side, confused by Tim’s expression.

"I already told you, Timmy. I love you." Jason took a half step forward but hesitated to come closer. Tim looked impassive, solid as a stone. He had no expression, not even in those blue, expressive eyes that Jason loved so much. "I love your family. I would never do anything that could possibly hurt or endanger any of you. I don't know what Ra's wanted but it couldn't have been good. ‘No’ was the only real option for me."

Jason sighed when Tim didn't respond, fearing that Ra's had been right in his threat that he would lose Tim. He was going to say something, anything, but he didn't have the chance. Just then, Alfred appeared in the doorway. "Master Todd, Master Bruce has returned, as well as Master Kent. They are waiting in the library for you."

Jason nodded and told the butler he would be there in a minute. He was still hoping Tim would say something. He waited a few moments, but after all that silence he gave up. With another sigh he sat down the bag with the laptop pieces and turned to go, and he was passing through the doorway when Tim's voice stopped him.

"What did he threaten you with? What did he think was important enough to you that you would betray us like that? That you would betray me?"

Jason looked over his shoulder at Tim to finally see an expression on his face: vulnerability. Jason gave him a sad smile. "He told me I'd lose you." Tim's eyebrows shot up. "Apparently he greatly overestimated my selfishness, because I'd much rather lose you than hurt you."

At those words, Tim's face became stone, impassive and expressionless. He didn't move. He didn't speak. He barely breathed.

Jason walked away, leaving the love of his life as frozen as he'd been when he'd said, "I love you."

Chapter Text

Jason wasn't sure what to think about Tim, so he tried not to think about him at all as he walked the short distance to the Manor's library. He knocked on the closed door, and Bruce's voice told him to enter. He did so and found Bruce sitting in a high-backed chair behind a large desk, Clark standing just behind and to the right of him. Dick was leaning against another desk on the left side of the room, his arms crossed and expression serious, a completely foreign thing to Jason, who had only ever seen Dick smiling, joking, and just generally being a little shit.

He swallowed as he took in the somber mood of the room and the tense body language of the three men. He gave them a weak smile. "I thought about making a joke to try and lighten the mood, but I figured it wouldn't work."

Clark gave a quiet snort, which sounded very loud in the large, quiet room. Bruce remained serious. The billionaire took a deep breath. "What happened, Jason?"

"Um," Jason stalled, shifting his weight. Even after summing it all up for Tim, Jason still didn't know how best to describe what had happened. He figured he should probably go about it a little slower than before, as rushing through it hadn't really helped him with Tim. "My mentor, Ra's Al Ghul..." He huffed. "Well, more like my ex-mentor. Anyway, that asshole is Damian's grandfather, yeah?"

Bruce nodded. "Yes, my ex-wife, Talia, was his only child."

"And now she's dead."

"Yes."

"And you have sole custody of Damian, right?"

Bruce sighed. "Yes, Jason. Where are you going with this?"

"Ra's was never friendly. He was my mentor, yeah, but he always either used a second party to communicate or simply avoided me altogether. When we did talk, he was blunt, to the point, and not very pleasant. I owed him a lot for helping me, but I never liked the guy." Bruce was still looking at him like he was taking forever, so he decided to just get to the juicy part. "Ra's called me today, asking for a meeting. A car was already waiting outside of my dorm building to take me to him. I went."

"And?" That was Clark, and his tone of voice was far less impatient than Bruce's, and far more concerned.

"He started out with just asking questions. How was school going, did I like my journalism class, had I had a chance to thank Mr. Bruce for the scholarship, and so on. Then he started asking about Damian."

Dick raised an eyebrow. "What did you say?"

Jason straightened his back. It was about right then that Jason realized that Bruce and Dick both probably thought he had actually complied with Ra's' demands. "I said he was a smart kid with a big vocabulary," he said, his tone and stance defensive. "I wouldn't answer any other questions." Dick uncrossed his arms and leaned back, his expression borderline guilty. "Of course, that was when he started threatening me."

"What did he threaten you with?" Bruce was sounding less impatient and more worried. "It must have been something important. Ra's is too smart to overestimate his leverage."

"He told me that he gave me everything I had and he could take it away just as easily. My job, my enrollment at GCU, my scholarship," Jason swallowed past the lump in his throat, but it could still be heard in the rest of his sentence, "my relationship with Tim. He said if I didn't give him the information he wanted I would lose everything I cared about."

Bruce narrowed his eyes, but from confusion, not distrust. "But you said no."

"He wanted me to keep earning your trust and get closer to your family so that I could provide him with any information he needed. He wouldn't tell me what for, but I could tell that it was bad. My education is great, but not worth the guilt I'd feel if I turned on you guys like that. And," he paused, clearing his throat, "I'm not worthy of Tim if I betray his family. I'm not sure I'm worthy of him anyway."

There was a bit of an awkward silence for a moment before Bruce stood up and walked over to Jason and put a hand on his shoulder. "You are, Jason. You never asked for it and you don't really need it, and Tim would probably be mortified if he was here right now, but you have my approval, my blessing, my support - whatever the hell you want to call it."

Jason forced himself to make eye contact with Bruce and not look as horrifyingly touched as he actually was. "Thank you, sir."

Bruce gave him a quick nod before moving on. "Jason, we need to go to the police about this, but they won't be able to do anything without some kind of proof. Do you have any?"

For the first time during that conversation, Jason grinned. It could almost be called an evil grin, so mischievous it was. He pulled out his phone from his pocket. "I recorded the conversation on my phone. And I'm pretty sure he had no idea that I was doing it. Also, he's already followed through on a couple of the threats he made in that recording, so I guess that counts as proof."

Bruce's eyes widened. "What? I-" He blinked. "I suppose I shouldn't be surprised considering this is Ra's we're talking about. But you seemed so calm..." Bruce trailed off, a new respect in his eyes as he realized that Jason had put the Wayne family before himself. "What did he do?" There was a new steel in Bruce's voice, a tone that Jason wasn't entirely sure where it came from but figured it meant Bruce was a little more protective of Jason. And a little more angry.

"When I got back to my room, it was trashed, and there was an eviction notice on my door. On the way here, I checked my email. I didn't tell Tim because I wasn't really all that disappointed about it, but I was also fired from my job at the library. I'm not sure how much of that can be traced back to him, but it's something."

Bruce nodded, but he still didn't look any more calm. "This is very helpful," he acknowledged, taking the phone and, with a nod from Jason, pulling up the voice recording app. "But, realistically, all it proves is that he threatened you. For a true case to be made against him, we need more evidence. Enough for a warrant. Otherwise, we'll have no way to figure out what he's doing or planning. A threat isn't enough to merit legal action, nor is it enough to prove criminal intent."

Jason sighed. "I figured you'd say that." He grinned again. "Good thing I have a plan."

Chapter Text

Jason took a deep breath. After what had happened the last time he was here, he knew that Ra's' mansion was not a safe place for him.

Then again, that's why he was here.

He checked to make sure the phone in his pocket was recording and then walked up to the front door, knocking hard. The door opened to show one of Ra's' many goons. He man glared at him, but he didn't seem to recognize Jason.

Jason wanted to smirk, but he made sure to keep a despondent, desperate expression on his face as he said in a quivering voice, "My name is Jason Todd and I'm here to see Ra's."

At the sound of Jason's name, the goon's eyebrows rose. After a second of hesitation, his eyes narrowed. The goon grabbed Jason's arm and dragged him into the house, slamming the door behind him as he went. The man's grip was strong, and Jason was sure his fingers would leave bruises in his bicep. Jason was also sure those wouldn't be the only bruises he would suffer today.

The goon continued to yank him through the house until they got to the same study that Ra's had been in earlier that day. Instead of sitting at the desk, this time he was staring out the large window, a mug of what was probably tea held comfortably in his hands. "You’re back already?"

Jason wanted to slap the smug grin off his face, but he refused to let himself lose his control. He took a deep breath, allowing a small shake to make him seem even more upset. "You were right," he choked out.

Ra's turned around to face him properly and cupped a hand at his ear. "I'm sorry, I didn't quite catch that."

"You were right!" He forced himself to say it louder, and he sank to the floor for dramatic effect. "My dorm, my job, GCU," he paused, made it sound like he was choking up, and whispered the last word of the sentence, "Tim. You were right."

Ra's gave him a wary look. "What about Tim, exactly?"

Jason made sure to be overly dramatic, with heavy breaths and a cold shiver and everything. "I thought you were bluffing, I- I went to his house, to tell him about my past, about being kidnapped. He-" Jason inhaled deeply through his nose, sniffing snot up his nose. "He wouldn't even... He wouldn't even look at me!" Jason was sat on the floor, his head in his hands, doing his best to make it look like he was crying. "Please, Ra's. Please, fix it. I'll do anything!"

"Fix it?" Jason looked up sharply to see Ra's looking down at him with a sneer. "How could I fix it? Did you tell him about our earlier conversation?"

Jason shook his head emphatically. "No! No, I swear I didn't. I thought if I told him then he wouldn't trust me anymore, but... I suppose it didn't really make a difference."

Ra's laughed. It was a truly cruel laugh, the cackle of someone who really enjoyed the suffering of others. "Oh, Jason. You poor, foolish boy. You should have just listened to me earlier." He set his mug on the desk and squatted down in front of Jason. With a cruel grin, he grabbed a handful of Jason's hair and yanked his head back. "If it was your relationship with the Drake boy that gave you access to the Waynes, and you no longer have a relationship with the Drake boy, then what use could you possibly be to me?" Ra's' cruel grin turned into a glare of rage. "Get him up," he snarled at his men.

Jason decided to resist as much as possible, so it took two of them to actually get him on his feet, and even then, they had to keep holding him by the arms to keep him up. "No! No, please, Ra's, I'll do anything! Maybe I can make him like me again! Maybe-"

"No." It was short, curt, and final. It was quiet, and it cut through the room like shrapnel. Jason's face crumpled. "Do you know how long it took to get to this point?" Jason swallowed. "Do you have any idea how much I invested in you?" Jason shook his head, smart enough not to speak. Ra's took off his suit jacket and lay it on the desk. "It took years to collect my options, pick the best one. It took years to get you that education, to groom you into the right shape so you'd slide perfectly into the lives of the Waynes, so that little Timothy Drake would fawn over you the instant you met." He rolled up his sleeves to his elbows and stepped closer to Jason, their faces inches apart. "Years," he snarled, then he swung.

The fist connected with Jason's solar plexus just right, and he doubled over, gasping for air. His gut roared in pain and his diaphragm spasmed as Jason scrambled to keep his wits about him. Ra's gave him no time to recover though, punching him in the face and sending him reeling backwards to the ground.

Jason hit his ass hard, and for some reason, in that moment of fear and danger, all he could think about was roller skating with Tim.

When Jason hit the ground, the phone he'd put only partially in his pocket slid out across the room. A goon picked it up and pushed the center button to turn it on. Still gasping for breath, Jason reached out a hand, barely managing to whisper a breathy, "No!" before the goon had the phone opened and saw the app running on screen.

"Boss," the goon said, "we got a problem."

Ra's rolled his eyes and looked over at the man. "What is it," he asked lazily, not realizing the depth of the situation. The goon turned around the phone and held it out for Ra's to see. Ra's only took a glance at it, but what he saw made his eyes light up with rage.

A voice recorder.

Ra's stomped over to Jason and grabbed his shirt by the collar, hoisting him up to be face to face. "How dare you? You thought you'd be able to record our little session and run to the police? Or perhaps you'd just show the young Drake and he'd run into your arms for saving his family? You're pathetic!" He threw Jason on the ground and grabbed the phone from the goon, talking as he went. "You'll never get out of this mansion alive, much less get this recording to anyone who matters."

He went to turn off the app, but he stopped suddenly as he got a good look at the phone. "Wait a moment," he muttered. "I know what your phone looks like, Jason. I bought it for you." Ra's looked up at Jason and held out the phone. "Whose phone is this?" Jason held his silence, steel in his eyes. Ra's looked him over, probably noticing for the first time that he didn't look at all like he had been crying or even that he was upset at all. He didn't look scared or worried about Ra's' threat to kill him. Jason was calm and quiet. And smug.

Letting out what sounded almost like a roar, he surged toward Jason and shook him hard. "Who does this belong to?" he yelled.

Jason smirked. "Bruce Wayne."

Ra's was still for a moment. But only for a moment. Then he threw Jason across the room. His head slammed into the desk as he fell to the ground.

He landed hard on his arm, and he heard a loud snap. Everything was foggy, and he couldn't really see that well. He felt his brain clouding up, and he was barely able to register the sharp pain coming from his left arm. Over the cacophony of his thoughts, he thought he heard Ra's' voice: "Grab him. Hold him on the ground."

He felt hands grabbing him. One jerked his left arm and he cried out in pain. The hands maneuvered him onto his back, until Ra's' voice rang in his ears, "On his stomach, you idiots."

The hands flipped him over, pushing his face into the hard wooden floor. A memory wafted to the front of his mind. He was eleven, and he was being held down by the men who kidnapped him. Their leader pulled off his pants, determined to teach him a lesson, and to show him what his life would be like for the next five years.

That was the first time he'd been raped.

And then it registered in his mind that that was probably what was about to happen now, too.

Sure enough, in his foggy state, he could feel hands jerking on his pants, trying to pull them down. He opened his eyes, cringing at the light, and he forced himself to seek out Ra's in the room. He was slowly unbuckling his belt, a sickening look of joy on his face.

Choking on air, Jason tore his eyes away from Ra's and looked for the phone. He found it on the ground a few feet away, where Ra's had dropped it when he'd thrown Jason into the desk. "Bruce Wayne," he choked out, hoping against hope that the phone was still on. "Bruce... Wayne," he said again, his mind clouding even more.

He knew he was losing consciousness. He wondered if that would be better, since he wouldn't be awake to feel Ra's shoving himself into him and taking even more from Jason than he already had. He could only hope that that the code words would work, that they'd be able to hear it over the noise of the room as he struggled to break free and Ra's yelled at his men to hold him more still.

Ra's had been so focused on the voice recording app. He had been too focused to notice the phone call being run in the background, too preoccupied to notice the call being made to Barbara Gordon, who was waiting on standby outside the house with a unit of police officers, ready to storm the house as soon as Jason said the code words.

"Bruce Wayne," he mumbled one last time.

Then everything went black.

Chapter Text

Babs was sitting in a chair in the hallway outside room 215 of the Gotham City Medical Center. It had been hours since Jason had lost consciousness and been admitted to the hospital. The doctors had already set and cast his broken arm and tended to every cut and bruise he had, but Jason still had yet to wake.

When he finally did, Clark was on watch-duty, and he sat in there through the nurses checking up on him and explaining his injuries. He'd fallen hard on his arm. Apparently when Ra's threw him at that desk it had twisted under him and he'd landed on it. His elbow had dislocated, and the bones of his forearm had shifted backwards and chipped of the tip of his humerus. That chipped off piece of bone had been floating around in there somewhere. The docs had planned to operate in order to put him back together, but luckily one managed to pop all the bones back in place so it wasn't necessary.

The cast was red. Clark said he liked that color.

Somebody needed to go in there after Clark. Well, technically nobody needed to sit with Jason, but everybody felt like it was the right thing to do. Nobody liked being alone in hospitals, and Jason had risked a lot for the Wayne family. It was supposed to be Bruce's turn, but when Babs looked over at him she saw the bags under his eyes and the heavy look on his face, she exchanged a look with Clark and nodded before standing up to go in. "Take him home," she told Clark as she passed him. "He needs some sleep." It was, after all, 10 a.m. and nobody had gotten a wink of sleep since the day before.

Clark nodded and went to Bruce, and Babs entered the hospital room of Jason Todd. She was surprised to find that not only was he awake, but he was also sitting up in bed, running his free hand over the grooves in the cast on his left arm. "Can't sleep?" she asked. She snorted when he shook his head. "Makes sense, considering you've been sleeping for over 12 hours now."

Jason smiled sheepishly. "So they told me. They also told me about my arm. Wicked, huh?"

"That's one way of describing it," she said with a small smile. "It's quite a creative injury. I don't think I've ever met anyone before who broke their arm that way."

"The forearm breaking the humerus or being thrown into a desk?" Babs rolled her eyes. Jason snickered.

"They tell you how we found you?"

Jason immediately sobered and nodded. "Unconscious with my pants around my thighs."

"You've got quite the package down there." Jason jerked his head up to stare at her with wide eyes. She smirked. Score: 1-0. "Don't worry," she said. "I'm ace." Not that she thought that probably made much of a difference to somebody who had lived Jason’s life. When he looked a little confused she sighed. "That means not interested."

Now it was Jason's turn to roll his eyes. "I know what it means. I was confused because Dick was your boyfriend for two years."

"Ace people date, you idiot. We just aren’t interested in getting it on with the junk in your trunk." Jason opened his mouth to reply but then snapped it shut. She chuckled. "If it's any consolation, Dick is not asexual, so I suppose I can understand the confusion. That's one of the reasons we broke up, and why I was okay with it." Jason nodded his understanding. "The other reason was because he's hella gay for his best friend."

Jason laughed. He had a good laugh. No wonder Tim liked this one.

When Jason had stopped laughing he was somber again. "They told me my pants were down. They didn't tell me how far Ra's got."

Babs pulled the chair away from the wall and up next to Jason's bed. She plopped down on it, kicked off her heals, and put her feet up on Jason's bed. "Relax, kid. Ra's didn't get close enough to touch your ass, much less fuck it." Jason nodded and reached for a cup of water. She continued talking as he took a drink. "Though his pants were down when Bruce roundhouse kicked him in the face."

He choked on the water and spat it back into the cup. New score: 2-0, her favor.

He coughed a couple times and regained the ability to breathe. He looked at her with a smile on his face. "Are you serious?"

She nodded. "It was the most badass thing I've ever seen. There Ra's was, ready to put his boner up your ass, when Bruce stomped in and roundhoused him. Poor Mr. Al Ghul was unable to maintain his balance thanks to the pants around his ankles, and he promptly fell to the ground on his face, his nose spewing blood all over his nice wooden floor. Then Bruce stood straight up, all broad and buff, and said, 'Don't ever touch my son's boyfriend, you bastard.'" She lowered the pitch of her voice as much as she could to imitate Bruce's deep voice, but the attempt was more comical than accurate.

Jason cracked up. "Oh, I wish I had been there!" he said through his laughter.

She smirked again. "You were. You were just unconscious." When Jason just kept laughing instead of getting offended, Babs decided she liked this kid. She liked him a lot. "But let me tell you, kid, if life were a movie, that scene would have made cinematic history."

He shook his head. "I'm glad it's not movie, or else my ass would have been on TV." They both chuckled at that. "So," he continued, "other than Bruce kicking Ra's in the face, what happened after I lost consciousness?"

"Well," Babs said, "my team and I stormed the place. We probably got in there just seconds after you blacked out. My team arrested Ra's' henchmen, but I personally saw to Ra's. I pulled him up off the ground, gave him two seconds to pull up his pants, and then cuffed him and read him his rights. The asshole had a broken nose, but once that was tended to, he went straight to a cell. Bruce called an ambulance and they took you straight to the hospital."

After a minute of contemplation, Jason nodded. "Did my plan work?"

Babs gave him a smile, the first true smile he'd probably ever seen from her. "Yeah. Yeah, it worked. The recorded phone call and your injuries gave us the proof we needed to get a warrant to search his house. The judge wasn’t happy about getting a call after hours, but we got the warrant. I spent all night digging through his computer. I only came to the hospital to tell Bruce what we found in person."

Jason opened his mouth to speak but hesitated for a moment. "What did you find?"

Babs cocked her head to the side, wondering how much she should tell him - and how much she could tell him legally. Then she decided that she didn't care what she could tell him legally because he deserved to know everything, considering what he'd suffered at Ra's' hands, and she knew no one would ever know how much she'd told him anyway.

"Years ago, around when Damian was born, Bruce and Talia got a divorce. After that, the two fought for custody. It took years, and no one actually ever won the court battle because Talia died in a car accident when Damian was two. Bruce had more money and better lawyers, but Talia was a woman, and the general consensus with these kinds of things is that children belong with their mother unless the mother can't provide or won't treat them right.

"Talia died just before Damian's third birthday, when the court probably would have just awarded her custody because she'd already had him for his whole life so why change it? But evidence was found that the vehicle might have been tampered with, and it made sense to a lot of people that Bruce might have arranged the accident to kill Talia so that he would get custody. Ra's accused him of just that and sued for not only the loss of his daughter but also for custody of his grandson.

"The police searched Bruce's home, his office at the university, his phone records - anything they could get their hands on, and they found nothing. My father was still commissioner at the time, and Ra's and everyone who supported him said that my father's friendship with Bruce was the reason they didn't find anything. It was a long court battle, and Ra's even got close to a conviction once, but then he messed up.

"Somebody caught him... disciplining Damian, and let's just say it was harsh enough to be called child abuse. This allowed Bruce to win custody, because he already had years under his belt of raising Dick, Stephanie, Cassandra, and Tim, and nobody had ever had anything but praise for his parenting. So Bruce got sole custody and nobody heard from Ra's Al Ghul for years." Babs grinned. "Until you applied to GCU and Ra's wrote your recommendation letter, of course."

Jason whistled. "Did they ever figure out who tampered with Talia's vehicle?"

"Actually, that's what I found on Ra's' computer." Jason's head snapped up to look at her from where he'd been playing with his cast. His eyes were wide as she nodded to affirm the suspicion she could clearly see playing on his features. "Ra's Al Ghul arranged his own daughter's death in order to win custody of Damian. He was sure she was going to lose soon, so he killed her to keep Bruce from winning and to put himself in the race."

Jason shook his head, unable to believe it. "No way. Who kills their own daughter to get custody of their grandson? I knew he wasn't a good guy, but he can't have been that bad." He swallowed. "Can he?"

Babs nodded and sighed. "He can. I found documents of everything. Ra's was meticulous, from hiring the guys who did it to giving them instructions to paying them. It's all there, including a copy of an email in which Ra's went on a very long-winded rant about how he deserved to have a son after all those years of waiting."

Jason exhaled and ran a hand through his hair. He didn't say anything else, so the two sat in silence for a bit. At some point a nurse came in to tell Jason that they wanted to keep him for observation for another 24 hours because of his concussion, but that after that he should be free to go. They sat there for another good two hours before Dick showed up to replace her so she could at least get a half-day at work. She figured that if she had to, she could get away with calling her time at the hospital 'interviewing a witness,' but she didn't think she really would need to.

When she got up to leave and meet Dick in the hallway, Jason said, "Thank you, Barbara. For everything."

She opened the door and looked over her should at him. "Call me Babs," she said, and then she walked out of the room. Hopefully he was smart enough to know that 'Call me Babs' was her way of saying 'Welcome to the family.'

Dick met her in the hallway and gave her a very, very large cup of black coffee, just what she needed to stay awake for the rest of the day. "So," he said, "how'd it go?"

She nodded. "Good. Hopefully Tim will come soon."

Dick sighed. "He hasn't left his room since yesterday. He spent all night with the door locked and his light on, doing God knows what."

"Well," she replied, giving Dick a meaningful look, "hopefully he won't be dumb like you and take forever to sort out his feelings."

Dick rolled his eyes. "Will that ever go away?"

Babs smirked. "Will Tim spilling his coffee on Jason ever go away?"

Dick's shoulders sagged and he stared at the floor with a forlorn expression on his face. "No..."

Babs laughed. Even after all these years and all they'd been through, Dick was still her best friend, and the only one who could ever make her laugh that way. "Have fun on watch duty," she said. Then she walked away, a small smile still gracing her lips.

Barbara Gordon took a big gulp of scalding coffee. Today was going to be a very long day

Chapter Text

Jason was reading a book Dick had brought him when the door to his hospital room opened. It was a few hours after Babs (it was weird to call her that now) had left, and Dick had fallen asleep in the chair next to the bed. He had expected the person who just entered to be the nurse who came to check in on him every couple hours, so he looked up with a smile. But when he saw that it was not actually the nurse but Tim who had come into his room, the smile slowly faded away.

He had wondered if he would come. It was already afternoon and he'd been in the hospital for almost 24 hours by then. The fact that his boyfriend was only then coming to see him didn't seem to bode well for Jason, or for his relationship.

Instead of being the first to speak, Jason remained silent, staring at Tim. He had come to see Jason, so let him be the one to talk first. As he stared, Jason realized that Tim looked like shit. Dark bags under bloodshot eyes, wrinkled clothes hanging from his frame, a messenger bag hanging from his shoulder, and his hair a rat's nest - it looked as though Tim hadn't slept at all since he woke up the day before.

Tim swallowed and smiled shyly. "Hi," he said, and it was so quiet that it was almost a whisper.

"Hi back," Jason returned. They waited in another silence, Jason wanting Tim to talk and Tim afraid to do so.

"How are you feeling?"

Jason snorted. "Probably about how you look. Didn't sleep?"

Tim shook his head. "Couldn't."

Jason nodded, though he really didn't understand. "Surprising. You couldn't sleep, but you were the last member of your family to show up to see your own boyfriend in the hospital." Even Damian had come, dragged in by Bruce, and Cassandra had stopped by to say hi, though Jason had a really hard time signing anything to her with the cast on his arm.

Tim said nothing, but Jason swore he could see his lips quivering. Jason closed his eyes, trying to block out the image of Tim on the verge of tears. "Why?" he whispered. He needed to know why Tim hadn't come. He needed some reason to blame for it, or else he'd start to blame himself.

It took Tim a moment to answer, and when he did Jason opened his eyes in surprise. "I was working on this." Tim hesitantly stepped closer to the bed and held out the messenger bag to Jason, who took the bag with the arm that wasn't broken. He laid it on the bed and opened it, pulling out a brand new, very expensive looking laptop.

He looked up at Tim with confusion. "What's this?"

Tim cleared his throat. "It took a while, but I managed to save most of the files off your hard drive. All your essays and documents for journalism are on there. Clark helped me know what to look for to find the important stuff. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to save most of your cache of anime. Sorry about that," he said, a tight-lipped smile on his face that didn't show in his eyes.

Jason internally smiled at the memory of Tim saving his poor laptop from all those viruses. Externally, he didn't make any expression at all, unsure of how he was really feeling in that moment. "And where did this laptop come from?"

"I got it for you. Your old one was totaled, and I figured it was the least I could do." Tim shrugged and refused to make eye contact.

"Because you're breaking up with me." It wasn't a question. Jason had known from the moment Tim had walked in with that sad look in his eyes. Jason had known when Tim walked into the room and didn't immediately pull him into a fierce hug.

Jason had known when Tim didn't come to the hospital once in the whole 14 hours he'd been unconscious. "It's the least you could do because you're breaking up with me."

Tim didn't say anything, and Jason sighed harshly. "You're not fooling me, Timmy. I've been in the hospital for almost 24 hours and you're only now coming to see me. I've spent this whole conversation waiting for you to say it."

Tim cocked his head to the side, a mock hurt expression on his face. "You think I'm cliche enough for 'We need to talk'?"

Jason rolled his eyes. "You took me to a roller rink for our first date, and then we shared a milkshake at a diner. Yes, Tim, you are definitely cliche enough."

Tim sighed, an expression on his face that Jason couldn't quite read. "I wasn't going to say 'we need to talk'." He hesitated for a moment. "I was going to say, 'It's not you, it's me.' That is a completely different cliche."

If he was on the outside looking in, Jason might have laughed. Instead, his shoulders drooped and he looked away from Tim to the other side of the room. "Figures. That was always my least favorite." Jason huffed and shook his head. "It was always the most selfish, it was always the least honest, and it always made the least sense." He turned to look at Tim, accusation and anger evident in his face. "Tell me, Tim, what is it about us that's wrong that's you and not me? What's changed since I told you about my past that could possibly be you and not me? If you're going to break up with me, at least be honest about why."

Tim gaped at Jason, trying to come up with a response, but Jason didn't give him the chance to say anything. "How exactly do you define love, Tim? Because yesterday you told me you love me, and it doesn't make sense to me that somebody would dump somebody they love because something bad happened to them that they couldn't control or prevent. It doesn't seem like love for somebody to break up with someone because they were raped as a child. That doesn't compute for me, so please, Tim, explain to me what love is, because I don't seem to get it."

At this point Jason was on the verge of tears, and he noticed that Tim already had them streaming down his face. The younger man took a halting step toward Jason, his hand reaching out toward him, before he abruptly stopped and jerked his hand back like it had been burned. "You think-" Tim choked on his words, but he swallowed and forced himself to speak. "You think that this is because of you? You think that I could ever stop loving you or leave you because of something like that? Because of a traumatic past?" Tim shook his head. "I saw my parents get brutally murdered when I was 8 and spent the next 3 years staring at the crime scene photos until Bruce and I caught the guy who did it. Believe me, I know about trauma," he ranted, letting out a near hysterical laugh, which woke Dick with a start. The poor guy was so surprised he fell out of the chair and hit the ground hard. He groaned and rubbed his head with his hand.

"Great, now I have a concussion." Then he looked up and noticed the tension between Tim and Jason. The older man swallowed and stood up. "I'm just gunna... um, you know what, I'll be in the hallway." He scampered out the door, the boys' eyes following as he went.

As soon as the door closed behind him, they looked at each other once more. "Then what is it, Tim?" Jason asked, barely managing to keep himself from yelling in his frustration. “Why?”

Tim sighed, quite dramatically if you ask Jason. "Because, Jason. You are broken. You are hurting. And I have no idea how to help you, because I am broken too. You deserve someone who can help you, who can be whole for you, and I can't. I can't do that, and I'm not sure I ever will. You deserve more than me, and you-"

"Bullshit."

Tim blinked, taken aback by Jason's interruption. "Excuse me?"

"I said bullshit." Jason held eye contact with Tim as he forced himself to stand up on the floor in front of Tim.

Tim shook his head. "Jason, you shouldn't be standing. You need-"

"Don't tell me what I need, Tim, because clearly you don't know.” The words were spoken barely louder than a whisper, Jason refusing to be the one to yell in this situation. “I didn't need a laptop to be here for me when I woke up for the first time after blacking out as my former mentor tried to rape me. I needed you to be here when I woke up. I don't need somebody who's got their life all together and has never had anything bad happen to them, because then how the hell would they understand what I'm going through or what it feels like to lose everything?" Jason reached out and cupped Tim's face with the hand on the arm that wasn’t broken. Tim hesitated to meet his eyes, staring at the floor, the walls, the ceiling, Jason's chest, and anything else that wasn't Jason's eyes. "Maybe we're Pangaea."

Tim squinted. "What?"

"Pangaea. You know, that super-continent or whatever. Maybe when you look at us individually, we just look like broken pieces with jagged edges." Jason's thumb smoothed away some of the tracks of tears that still streamed down Tim's face. "But when you put us together, the pieces fit. Maybe we're supposed to be broken together."

Tim took a ragged breath, and he didn't move or speak for a moment. But then he flung his arms around Jason's middle and buried his head into his clavicle. "I'm sorry," he choked out as he cried harder. "I'm sorry I wasn't here. I-" He was unable to finish the sentence because he was crying too hard.

Jason wrapped his arm around Tim's back and pulled him in tighter, setting his chin on Tim's head. He wished he could put both of his arms around him, but one would have to do for now. Ignoring his own tears, he shushed Tim's quiet whimpers. "It's okay, baby. It's okay. You're here now."

"I love you so much," Tim whispered into Jason's shirt, and Jason couldn't help the small, sad smile that graced his lips.

"I love you, too, Timmy." Jason moved back to the bed, coaxing Tim to come with him. Then he laid back down on the bed and pulled Tim down with him so that the younger man's head rested on Jason's chest. He did his best to move the new laptop out of harm’s way and did what he could to make the two of them comfortable. Tim was still crying, letting out all the worry and sadness of the past two days. Tim's tears broke Jason's heart, and he continued to wipe them away until they both fell asleep.

Chapter Text

"Mysterious as the dark side of the moOOOOON!"

Jason cringed as Tim sang along with the song he clearly knew by heart. Tim had decided it was about time they got around to the Disney movies and started with his favorite, Mulan. So far he'd sung the words of every song and had quoted a majority of the movie verbatim. It would be really annoying to Jason if 1) he wasn't used to it after more than 6 months of dating Tim, and 2) it wasn't so darn cute.

It had been more than half a year since the fiasco with Ra's. Jason had testified at his trial and he'd been locked away for life for murder, attempted murder, attempted rape, blackmailing, and a few other crimes that Babs had managed to dig up evidence for among Ra's' files and belongings.

Instead of getting his dorm room back with Roy, Jason just moved in with Tim, after having been invited by Tim, Bruce, Dick, Cassandra, Wally (who had also officially moved in only a week before Jason did), and even Alfred. When Alfred invites you to live at Wayne Manor, you live at Wayne Manor, no ifs, ands, ors, or buts. Jason hadn't wanted his job at the library back either, so he'd made do as a standardized patient (tricking Ra's had revealed to Jason that he was actually quite the actor), and he was set to be a TA for Clark when the new semester started that fall.

For now though, Jason was enjoying his summer at Wayne Manor, taking a break now that classes were over and reaping the rewards of winning the contest for journalism class. Apparently, he'd had the best final project out of all of Clark's classes (which was what qualified him to be a TA for him) and he'd taken second place in the official contest, receiving a cash prize of $1000, which really didn't go that far but was welcome nonetheless. Clark had pulled some strings with an online news journal he used to write for and got Jason's editorial published anyway, and awareness was spreading like wildfire. Two different news stations had asked him for an interview, and he had agreed on the condition that he would not be asked for any names other than his own in order to grant anonymity to Jen and other people who might either still be slaves or had managed to escape and might not want their names all over the TV.

He'd also been contacted by the FBI, who were trying to get as much information out of him as possible about his kidnappers, 'masters', clients, and anyone else he may have had contact with. It was hard, reliving it all so many times, but he knew it was doing good, so he kept at it.

Mostly though, he just spent time with Tim. After that day at the hospital, they'd had a couple disagreements here and there but they'd mostly just enjoyed their time together. They decided that they would each get counseling for their respective traumas, in order to try and be a little less broken, but neither thought they would ever really be whole again.

Jason was no better at paying attention to movies when he was watching them with Tim, though it was a little easier when Tim sat in his lap. Then he could still feel him, know that he was still there. He didn't have to look over every few seconds to reassure himself that, yes, this was real and Tim was his boyfriend.

If you had told eleven year old Jason, or twelve year old Jason, or even seventeen year old Jason, that he would be where he was with someone as amazing as Tim, he wouldn't have believed you. Because the life he was living was like a dream, and Jason had never believed that dreams could come true.

Until now.