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Three Hundred and Thirty-Four

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When Jason saw Dick at the hotel counter wearing an ill-fitting blue satin dress and a ratty black wig, a small part of him considered just leaving Dick to his own devices. Probably no innocents would get hurt, Jason would still be able to complete his mission, and as an added bonus, it would be hilarious . He could even get some good blackmail photos out of it.

Then he sighed. ‘Probably’ no innocents was not the same thing as no innocents, and Dick’s bumbling presence would no doubt impact the efficiency of his own mission. If he was going to succeed, he’d have to interfere.

So, Jason took a deep breath, straightened his leather jacket, hoisted his bag over one shoulder, and strode confidently towards Dick.

“Hey babe,” he said loudly, sliding an arm around Dick’s waist. “Did you get the room yet?”

Dick didn’t stiffen – they were all professionals here, after all – but he did widen and relax his stance, prepared to fight. Then he turned his head towards Jason.

It took all of Jason’s practice living in the Bat-mansion not to burst into laughter.

Dick was wearing makeup - thick, horrible, awful makeup. He evidently hadn’t bothered to ask someone who actually knew what they were doing for help before taking a stab at it – in the dark and with one hand tied behind his back, too, because he looked like a panda who’d been punched in the face. Repeatedly.

He apparently didn’t know that eyeliner was supposed to line the eyes , because he’d smudged it all around his eyes like coal, the dark color casting a shadow over the blue of his irises so they seemed nearly black. A truly garish amount of purple eyeshadow splashed unevenly across his eyelids, and he’d gone so overboard with blush he might as well have just drawn two pink circles on his cheeks. As for lipstick…

Jason eyed Dick’s sticky red mouth. “Oh, honey ,” he said, and meant it.

“Hey,” Dick said, red smile hard and unfriendly. “I thought it would take longer to park the car.”

Jason wanted to roll his eyes. Trust Dick to be a suspicious bastard when he was actually trying to help this time. “I just couldn’t wait to get back to you,” he said as sweetly as he could.

The receptionist slid a card over to Dick, glancing at Jason sympathetically before turning back to Dick and fixing him with a professional smile. “Your room is ready, Ms. Gray. You booked a non-smoking room, one queen-sized bed, for three nights. We put you in room 1218. Breakfast is from 6 to 9, and check out is at 12. Please enjoy your stay.”

Jason swiped the card before Dick could grab it. “Oh, we will,” he said with his best leer, before using the arm around Dick’s waist to guide him towards the elevators.

Dick couldn’t take his keycard back without starting a fight and drawing attention to himself, which, given his choice in disguise, was probably the last thing he wanted right now. His only option was to play the part of happy girlfriend and let Jason lead him into the elevators.  They stood in uncomfortable silence as Dick punched in the floor number and jabbed at the door close button, the elevator responding at a glacial pace.

As soon as the doors slid shut, Dick had his escrima sticks out and at Jason’s throat. “What the hell are you doing here, Jason?” he hissed. “What’re you planning?”

It took all of Jason’s concentration not to react at the press of Dick’s long and lean body against his. He leaned away, both hands held up at the level of his eyes. “Hey now, I’m just being a good Samaritan. I wouldn’t want to interfere with our precious Golden Boy’s work,” he added, unable to stop himself from sneering.

Dick’s eyes narrowed. “Good Samaritan?” he asked, lowering his sticks slightly.

“Yeah, dude. Have you looked in a mirror recently? It’s like Friday the 13 th , but worse. Rocky Horror would disown you.”

Dick hissed irritably and released Jason, rubbing at his eyes. “I know,” he said. “But neither Babs nor Cass knew how to apply makeup. I was on my own.”

“Steph?”

“Laughing too hard.”

“Oh, boy,” Jason whistled. “Looks like that infamous dexterity of yours doesn’t extend to drawing with a mirror, does it?”

“Shut up, Jason,” Dick growled. “If you don’t have anything helpful to say, just leave. No one’s stopping you. I’m not even sure why you insisted on coming up here with me in the first place.”

Honestly, neither was Jason.

He knew that the smartest thing to do right now would be to walk out of here and pretend they’d never ran into each other. He and Dick had fallen into something of an ‘out of sight, out of mind’ policy for each other in the recent months. Dick focused on cleaning up Bludhaven, while Jason tracked down smuggling rings and crime syndicates with Roy and Kori. If they didn’t meet, they didn’t fight.

It was good, this way. Jason was more or less free to do what he believed was right, and Dick didn’t have to concern himself with the black sheep of the family. Everyone was happy.

(Except Jason still wondered what life would be like if things were different, if he’d just died, if he hadn’t been so bitter and angry and damaged .)

The keycard bit into his palm.

The sudden shock of pain brought Jason back to himself, and he gripped the keycard even harder as an idea started to form in his mind. “Actually,” he said casually, “I think I can help.”

 

Jason returned in a little less than two hours, holding a small shopping bag. “Three hundred bucks,” he announced. “Three hundred, all for so little makeup, your grandma could bench it. You owe me, Dickie-bird.”

Dick eyed the bag warily. “Seems like a waste,” he said.

“It is,” Jason agreed. “But it’s a waste that’ll save you from lookin’ like you went ten rounds with Alfred.”

Dick opened his mouth to protest, but then shut it again. There was no arguing with that.

Jason rustled around in his bag and pulled out a small bottle and a pad of tissues. He handed them to Dick. “Makeup remover. Wipe that shit off your face.”

After checking the label to make sure the bottle really was what Jason said it was, Dick complied, breathing a sigh of relief as he felt layers of heavy cosmetics come off his skin.

When he’d finally pulled the last of the sticky mess from his face, Jason maneuvered him into the bathroom and sat him down on the toilet seat cover. “I forgot it would have been best for you to have come with so I could test the foundation on you,” Jason said, pulling all manner of little bottles and boxes from his bag and setting them on the counter, “but I think I did a pretty good job getting your color.” He neglected to mention that he’d been dreaming of Dick’s skin since he was fifteen.

Dick recoiled from the growing pile of cosmetics. “Do we really need all this?” he asked.

Jason pinned Dick with a level stare. “Do you really think that after putting what you did to your face today, you’re really the person to be questioning the makeup process?”

Dick had to admit that he was not.

“Then shut up and stop acting like a little bitch,” Jason said, squeezing a dollop of foundation onto the back of his hand and gathering a small amount onto a teardrop-shaped sponge. “Consider this my one good deed for the day.”

Dick grabbed Jason’s wrist before he could touch the foundation to his face. “Why are you doing this?” he needed to ask.

Jason hesitated. His heart pounded in his chest, and he was sure Dick could feel his pulse jumping in his wrist. He wanted what he always wanted, but couldn’t have: Dick’s regard, Dick’s affection, Dick’s respect. The words tasted metallic at the tip of his tongue.

He swallowed them back. He said, “Maybe I’m hoping you’ll leave me alone and let me do what I have to do.”

Dick didn’t let go of his wrist, gripping it even tighter as his blue eyes roved over Jason’s face, probing for… something. The intensity of his gaze trapped Jason’s breath in his chest.

After what felt like an eternity, Dick let Jason’s wrist go. Then, he smiled – the first one Jason had seen all night. “No promises,” he said.

 

Dick kept quiet as Jason rubbed powders and liquids onto his face. Jason worked silently, eyes narrowed with a quiet focus Dick had never seen before on his face. He was always a bundle of rage when they fought, spitting acid vitriol or cold with artificial indifference, channeling his anger into the gunpowder that exploded behind his bullets.

Dick realized he couldn’t remember the last time he’d seen Jason act like the kid he really was. When was the last time he’d heard Jason laugh with happiness? One year ago? Two years, or three?

It’d been a long time.

“Why do you know how to do this?” Dick asked, watching Jason compare eyeshadow colors in the mirror.

“Knowledge is useful,” Jason said absently, trying to choose between dark and light blue. Light, he decided, to bring out Dick’s eyes.

Dick closed his eyes as Jason picked up the brush. “Did you learn from Kori?”

Jason couldn’t stop himself from snorting. “No,” he said, packing in eyeshadow in at the crease in Dick’s eyelids. “Kori couldn’t tell eyeliner from an actual eyeball. Damn, man, you’ve got some deep-set eyeballs.”

Dick hummed. “Roy?”

“No, dumbass. Move your head that way.”

Dick complied, following the gentle press of Jason’s fingers. “Don’t tell me it was Bizarro?”

“Don’t sound so incredulous. It could have been Bizarro, you don’t know him.”

Dick smiled. “So it wasn’t Bizarro.”

“No, it was not fucking Bizarro, for fuck’s sake, Dick. Why the fuck are you so invested in this?”

“I’m just curious about…” Dick hesitated at the ‘ you ’ that wanted to follow and ended with, “it. It just doesn’t seem like something that would be useful to you.”

The gentle brush movements paused, and Dick opened his eyes to find Jason staring at him in the mirror, dark eyes hooded. “What, you don’t think I wanna look pretty when I’m stamping out the scum of the earth?” he said, white knuckles belying his deceptively light voice. “Useful skills are useful. That’s all there is to it. Now shut your goddamn eyes, this part is tricky.”

Dick did, and he felt the brush begin to move again. He thought about Jason’s helmet, and his domino mask. He thought about the way Jason’s lips twisted when he was angry, about the way his muscles shifted when he pressed on an injury.

He thought about bruises.

Before he could think about it, he said, “I think you’re pretty, Jason.”

He heard a sharp intake of breath, and suddenly he wondered if Jason would try to hit him.

He cracked open his eyes just in time to see Jason flush a deep, splotchy red, his eyebrows drawn together and the corners of his mouth quivering as if he was trying to decide whether he wanted to frown or smile.

Dick thought he’d never seen anything so adorable, and he said as much.

His words had the intended effect - Jason snapped back to attention and cuffed Dick on the back of the head. “I’m fuckin’ gorgeous,” he huffed, poking at Dick’s eyelid a bit more savagely than warranted. “Now stop squirmin’ or I’ll put your eye out.”

Dick held his hands up. “Yes, sir,” he grinned, and tilted his face up towards the light.

 

Everything went quickly after that. Dick lost himself in the dizzying process, memorizing a seemingly endless parade of instructions, Jason outlining which brush to use when and what colors would work where.

Before Dick realized it, they were finished. Jason flicked the back of his ear. “Now c’mon, look, and don’t say I never did anything for you.”

Dick turned his head toward the mirror and blinked.

The girl in the mirror blinked back.

It was as if Jason had worked some kind of magic. Although Dick had watched Jason brush the glittering makeup onto his face, it was as if he had only seen the process in fragments, incognizant of how they worked together to create a different face. The contouring and highlighting worked together to soften Dick’s jaw, giving the impression of a rounder, less angular face. Dewey foundation and a light blush brightened his skin, and the blue on his eyelids electrified the blue in his irises. Long, dark eyelashes swept over his rosy cheeks, innocent and pure.

His lips parted. They shone with gloss.

He swiped his tongue over his lower lip.

“Cherry flavored,” Jason said unhelpfully. “Lip products never stay on, no matter what the commercials say. If you’re gonna end up eating half the tube anyway, it might as well taste good.”

“Smart,” was all Dick could think to say.

Jason shifted uncomfortably as he waited for Dick to have more of a reaction. Punch him or hug him, Jason at least wanted to know how the rest of the night would turn out.

But Dick did neither. He just continued to stare at the girl in the mirror, like he was looking at a ghost.

He stared long enough that Jason figured he wasn’t going to get any reaction out of Dick, and it would be better if he just left.

He started to sidle towards the door. “Well, it was nice workin’ with ya, Dick, but I’m just gonna… go….” He hefted his bag up onto his shoulder. “Hope I don’t see ya later.”

He had one hand on the doorknob and half a foot out the door when Dick suddenly turned around and looked Jason straight in the eye, blue eyes sparking with electricity.

Jason’s breath caught in his throat.

“Stay,” Dick said.

(In the mirror, her eyes breathed sincerity and forgiveness, and Dick wanted to know if he had that in him, too.)

 

Jason had absolutely no idea what was happening .

In the span of two hours, his entire life had spiraled out of control, and somehow it hadn’t even involved guns.

Was he in an alternate universe? Did Lex Luthor take over and become President? Did the fucking Joker break out again and spray him with his happy gas, because Jason felt seconds away from collapsing into hysterical laughter.

“Just to be clear, Dickie-bird, I don’t put out on the first date,” he sniped, shucking his pants off more violently than needed to hide how hard he was vibrating in his skin. “You should at least buy me a drink first.”

“Good thing I’m strictly a goodnight-kiss-on-the-first-date kinda guy,” Dick returned, smiling.

Jason crossed his arms and before he could stop himself, he said, “Oh, yeah? I don’t remember getting a goodnight kiss.”

He immediately regretted his impulsive words, but before he could take them back, Dick was right in his face, lips less than an inch away from his.

“My bad,” Dick laughed, and kissed him.

It was sweet and chaste, nothing more than Dick’s lips brushing against his, but Jason found he couldn’t get enough. He unconsciously leaned forward as Dick pulled away, chasing after the faint taste of cherries. Thankfully, he caught himself before Dick seemed to notice, but he couldn’t stop a blotchy blush from spreading across his cheeks.

“There,” Dick said, satisfied, blissfully unaware of how flustered Jason felt. “The perfect end to a perfect night.” He flashed a tiny grin, and Jason suddenly wondered what it would be like if they’d both grown up – normal. If Dick would take him out in his beat-up second-hand car. If they would go see a movie and laugh at the terrible special effects. If Dick would walk him home and kiss him goodnight at his doorstep, instead of in a hotel room with a duffel bag full of disassembled guns.

Jason’s throat squeezed uncomfortably.

“You say that to all the girls, Dick?” Jason croaked, willing his voice to work.

Dick pinned him with a gaze that burned. “No,” he said.

Jason didn’t know what to say to that.

 

They somehow found their way onto the bed without too much more trouble. Jason kneed Dick in the ribs, and Dick retaliated with an elbow to the cheekbone, but eventually they found an arrangement that was relatively comfortable for two six-foot something men on a queen-sized mattress.

“I have to warn you, I’m a cuddler,” Dick said, fluffing up his pillows.

Jason, who often had to sleep on rooftops and crumpled up against a wall, had no such need to get comfortable and just lay flat on his back, staring at the darkened ceiling. “Sure, but don’t bitch to me if you wake up tomorrow morning with a black eye.”

Dick grinned. “I’ve got concealer now, and I know how to use it,” he said cheerfully. “Man, this’ll be so helpful with the guys back at the precinct. Half of them think I have kinky sex every night and the other half are worried I’m in an abusive relationship.”

Jason smirked. “Vigilantism is a cold mistress, isn’t she?”

“Yeah, but it’s worth it.” Dick’s voice was clear and strong and resolute. “For her, and for the people she protects.”

The naked faith in Dick’s voice clenched painfully at Jason’s heart, and he had to turn away, shifting so his back was facing Dick. He could feel Dick’s eyes glittering at him in the darkness, like two stars in an otherwise empty night sky. His fingers dug into his pillow. “Sure,” he mumbled, too softly to be heard. “For some people.”

They both fell quiet, and after a while, Dick’s breaths started to even out as he edged towards sleep. Jason was still wired up, his blood humming under his skin.

“Hey, Dick?” he asked suddenly, shifting over so he was facing towards Dick.

“Mhm?” Dick mumbled, halfway to sleep. He shook himself a little more awake so he could answer whatever Jason wanted to know.

Jason, however, didn’t say anything for a long time, and Dick, unable to keep himself awake for any longer, began to slide towards unconsciousness again.

He was on the verge of tipping over when Jason finally asked, “Why were you staring at yourself in the mirror? After I finished your makeup?”

Dick tried his best to shrug. “Mmph. Guess I felt pretty.” His lips curled up into a soft smile. “You made me feel pretty, Jason.”

“Yeah?” Jason said, but Dick had already started snoring.

Jason stared hard into the darkness, tracing the faint lines of the muscles in Dick’s back with his eyes.

“I’ve always thought you were beautiful, Dick.”

 

Jason was gone when Dick woke in the morning. Dick wasn’t surprised; he hadn’t really expected Jason to stay all night.

He yawned and stretched out on the bed, lingering for a few moments longer before hauling his body upright.

He passed by the desk on his way to find a coffeepot, makeup bottles and cases still littering its surface from where Jason had left them last night. A folded piece of paper, pinned underneath the bottle of foundation, caught Dick’s eye.

It was the receipt for the makeup, all three hundred and thirty-four dollars of it, and at the bottom, Jason’s signature in large, loopy letters.

There was a small cartoon of his red mask just next to the signature, with a speech bubble that read, Tell B I said thanks . Then he’d drawn an arrow that pointed upwards.

Raising an eyebrow, Dick followed the arrow to where it pointed to a circled number – specifically, the last four digits of the credit card number. Dick instantly recognized them as Bruce’s personal credit card number, the one he used for family expenses.

He threw his head back and laughed. He should have known Jason would never have used his own money to buy Dick three hundred dollars worth of cosmetics. Bruce was probably already having a minor stroke.

Well. It couldn’t be worse than that time Ivy and Harley forced Bruce to take them on a shopping spree, right?

Still chuckling, Dick put the receipt back on the table and exchanged it for a color palate, the same one that Jason had used for his eyes the previous night. He could see a fine powder of dust over the light blue cake where Jason had picked up pigment.

As he idly brushed a thumb over the color, wondering if he should use it again for today, he found his eyes drawn to a different cake of pigment: a deep, vibrant red, smooth as pooling blood.

His lips curled into a smile.

.

.

.

“Really?” Jason yelled at Dick over the sound of his guns. “ Red ?”

Dick grinned, bright crimson lipstick smeared all over his face.  “What, you don’t like it?” he laughed, blowing a kiss towards Jason.

Jason stared.

Dick couldn’t see his expression under the helmet, and his body language gave nothing away. As the seconds dragged on, Dick’s smile started to slip from his face, and he began to wonder if this was a bad idea after all.

Just as he was about to give it up as a lost cause, he heard something he’d never expected to hear again:

Jason started to laugh. His chest heaved with great big ringing peals of mirth, and Dick thought the sound was even brighter and more vibrant than he remembered. He smiled so hard his face hurt.

“Give it up, do you think I’m pretty?” he said as Jason’s laughter began to die down, twirling one of his sticks around his fingers.

Jason shook his head, his own heart feeling lighter than it had in ages. “No,” he grinned, and punched Dick in the mouth.