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Age 16:

Bruce had wanted him to learn to play nice with others hence the pen pal, Eddie Bloomberg. When Dick had let it slip that Eddie was one of the new recruits for the Teen Titans, Bruce had gotten the idea to ship Jason off to the team’s headquarters for the weekend. Dick had been excited to show his little brother off to the team, but Jason really did not want anything to do with it. That night, he was practically dragged into the tower after their patrol.

Dick had given him a typical introduction in front of old and new Titans alike before leaving him to fend for himself. He had felt so awkward until a drink or two ago. Donna had been the one to break out the alcohol among the older members. To Dick’s horror, Rose had been the one to convince the amazon to share with the rest of them. She had also been the one to suggest a game of truth or dare.

They were going around the circle and whoever’s turn it was would spin a bottle. The person it landed on was then asked truth or dare. So far, the highlights had consisted of Donna confessing her feelings for Roy and him surprising everyone by reciprocating, Dick attempting to backflip over the couch…and succeeding only to land on his ass, Cir-el came out as a trans woman when asked what her biggest secret was, and Mia Dearden (who was drinking orange juice) did a hilarious impersonation of Oliver. All in all, it was going well. That is, until it was Rose’s turn again.

The bottle pointed to Jason for the first time that night. “Alright Boy Wonder, truth or dare?” She took a swig from her mixed drink.

“Dare,” Jason replied smugly. He had trust issues and didn’t know these people well, so his choice was only logical. Besides, he hoped a dare would add some excitement and make him seem interesting.

Rose thought for a moment. “I dare you and Eddie to kiss each other on the lips.”

Jason felt himself flush. “What?” He didn’t know what was more terrifying; to have his first kiss under these circumstances and with a guy no less or the fact that he was oddly gleeful about it.

“Put your lips, on Eddie’s,” Rose said.

Eddie shrugged. “Eh, what the hell? Come here pen pal.” He moved closer to Jason and swiftly proceeded to kiss him.

It had lasted no more than a second or two, but it left butterflies in Jason’s stomach and a tingling sensation upon his lips. He was staring wide eyed at his friend, unable to breathe right until Mia reminded everyone it was Cir-El’s turn to spin the bottle.

Age 17:

Talia had sent him off to train with monks who were somehow also warriors. The very idea of such people sounded ridiculous to him but here he was going along with it by meditating in a garden after being forced to fight a white-haired girl with eyes so dark he swore they were made of shadows. He’d gotten his ass beat pretty badly by her. Ducra had laughed as she tended to his wounds before she told him to come here.

There were bugs buzzing all around him and it was distracting him from focusing on his breathing. He furrowed his eyebrows and heard someone start to giggle. He opened an eye to see the girl who beat him standing in the archway. “What do you want?”

She walked over to him. “I came to see how you fare, Jason.” She sat down in front of him.

He scoffed. “Whatever.” He closed his eye again before deciding to give up and open both of them. “Hey, how come you know my name and I don’t know yours? Seems a little unfair, don’t you think?”

The girl tilted her head to the side. “You never asked.”

He sighed. “What is your name?”

“Essence,” she replied matter-of-factly.

Jason stood. “Well Essence, it’s nice to officially meet you but I have to…”

She grabbed his wrist. “You fight well Jason. Mayhap, I could help you improve.”

He tried to break free from her grasp. “Only if you let me go.”

Essence held his gaze as she released him. It was then that he noticed her ethereal beauty for the first time. She had sharp, fae like facial features, and hair that reminded him of the light of the full moon. He almost forgot how to breathe while looking at her. “Excellent. We’ll begin in one hour in the same spot I just defeated you at.”

From that point on, Ducra and Essence led him through intensive training morning, afternoon, and night. There was little down time, but those rare moments were spent getting to know Essence. They had taken a liking to each other rather quickly despite the whole trying to kill each other dynamic. Talking with her excited him. She had a wealth of knowledge inside her so conversations were never dull and he always learned something. He always looked forward to seeing her and their discussions. Truthfully, he hadn’t felt that way about someone since, well, Eddie. The implications of that realization were infinitely more interesting when Essence and Jason struck up a romantic relationship. Though, there was no time to think about much when dating the living embodiment of shadows in between training to become a warrior-monk so it inevitably slipped his mind. Mostly due to necessity.

Age 19:

Things were starting to look up. He was finally getting back into the good graces of some of his family members, he had permanently dealt with several drug lords, and he’d finally brewed the perfect cup of tea. Jason had just returned to his safehouse when his phone went off with a message from Dick. He wanted to know if Jason was interested in grabbing a meal with him and a couple of friends. No response was given.

When he woke up, he made his way over to a nearby diner for lunch and was horrified to see Dick sitting in a booth with Donna, Wally, and some other guy. He was about to walk out the door when his older brother spotted him and waved him over. It was too late to do anything other than grin and bear it, so he begrudgingly joined them.

“Didn’t think you got my messages,” Dick said, sliding over to let Jason sit next to him.

Jason leaned back. “I ignored them.” He began to study the guy across from him who was sitting next to Donna. He had a full head of luscious, dark locks that were perfectly styled. Jason could not see much of his face as he was staring down, drawing on a napkin. From what he could tell, this mystery guy was sort of cute in a way.

Dick shook his head. “How did you know we were here then?”

Jason was focusing on the pen strokes the guy was making. It looked like he was drawing some sort of comic character. “This is a happy coincidence for you.”

“I’m glad you’re here,” Dick said. “You all remember my brother Jason, right?”

“How could I forget?” Wally responded. He sounded as if he were still bitter about that one-time years ago Jason had managed to trap the speedster in a freezer for five minutes.

Donna was all smiles. “Of course. It’s nice to see you again.”

The mystery guy finally looked up. It took a lot of willpower not to stare at him. He was dreamy. His face was chiseled, and he had lively, emerald eyes that Jason wanted to get lost in. He easily could have if he was somewhere private. His pulse had quickened to the point he could hear it in his ears. “We haven’t met before, I’m Kyle,” he said, extending his hand across the table.

Jason shook it. “Nice to meet you.” He was almost certain that Kyle knew his heart was racing and that made him nervous. Whatever all of this meant confused Jason as he tried to think of anything besides the glances Kyle tossed his way throughout the meal.

Age 20:

After a few months of randomly encountering Kyle through missions or random get togethers thrown by Dick, Jason concluded he was a decent fellow. But Jason tried to keep his distance. He was uncomfortable with how he felt about Kyle even when they weren’t together. It had started with his heart racing and sweaty palms whenever he laid eyes upon the Green Lantern. From there it grew into late night thoughts about them being intimate. At a certain point, it became hard to deny that he had unwillingly developed a crush on the art hoe.

It was something Jason could not comprehend. He was straight. Or at least he had always considered himself to be because he liked girls. Then again, between growing up in survival mode, dying, and coming back to life to train with elite warriors and assassins, he hadn’t had much time to think much about that sort of thing except for when he was with Essence. So, who could say for certain?

A couple more months of soul searching, and Jason decided it was time to experiment. He downloaded an app exclusively for men. Mere minutes into his first time using the app, he nearly dropped his phone when he saw a profile for Kyle. His phone met the floor seconds later when Kyle messaged him first. It was awkward, or at least that is how he felt. Things progressed from pretending they weren’t talking when around the others to casual hangouts and eventually, a kiss atop the rooftops.

Kyle had been explaining Renaissance artists and what made them all unique. He was so passionate he was moments away from levitating off the ground. His eyes gleamed in the moonlight as he spoke. Jason couldn’t take it anymore, he reached over and touched Kyle’s cheek as he swept a lock of hair away. Kyle fell silent mid-sentence. They stared at each other for a couple minutes before Jason finally worked up the courage to kiss him.

After that, they began to secretly date since Jason was not certain about things and was not ready to explain whatever was going on with him, with them, to his family. Prior to Kyle, his only romantic experience was with Essence. He really had cared for her and enjoyed being with her, but they had been destined to fail from the beginning. Then there was what happened with Talia and all those fucked-up emotions he decided not to unpack. Therefore, the fact that everything was going so well with Kyle surprised him and it was welcomed.

But it was too good to last.

The clandestine nature of their relationship came crashing to an end when Dick showed up unannounced at the safehouse they had spent the night in. They were laying naked in bed, holding each other when Jason’s phone went off a little after seven in the morning. He ignored it. Then the alarms he had installed began to go off. They both jumped into action, yanking on their boxers and settling into fighting stances. That is when the door opened to reveal Dick Grayson with his jaw about to hit the ground.

After the alarms were silenced and Jason said a few choice words to his brother, Kyle bailed leaving the two of them to talk. If the lack of clothing had not been enough for Dick to realize what was going on, the hickeys all over Jason’s neck and torso would have done the trick. Dick had come over to discuss a case the family needed help with but turned it into trying to have a heart to heart instead. When Dick finally got it through his head that Jason wasn’t going to open up, he left, promising not to mention anything to a soul.

Within the month following Dick more or less walking in on them, Kyle broke things off with Jason stating he realized he wanted to be more than a secret lover. He had hoped that as their relationship continued, Jason would come to terms with his identity and proudly show off what they had together. Apparently, the way Jason had handled the incident with his brother had proved Kyle’s hopes would not come to fruition anytime soon.

Jason should have seen it coming. After all, between him spending time with the Outlaws and his family and Kyle going on adventures with the Lantern Corps, they had been seeing each other less frequently. Then there was the fact the spontaneity had disappeared. There were at least a dozen other small things Jason could think of off the top of his mind that had pointed towards the end, but it didn’t make it hurt any less. Though, target practice on drug dealers seemed to do the trick.

Age 21:

Rose and Jason were sitting on a rooftop looking out at the river. She was listening intently as Jason talked about his sexuality and the confusion, he was feeling about it. They were never technically anything more than friends with benefits but neither of them had been seeing anyone else for a little while thus, Jason felt obligated to tell her the truth about what was going on with him. Besides, Rose was one of three people Jason trusted at this point in his life.

“In short, I think I might be gay,” Jason admitted, a weight lifting off his shoulders as he finished his long winded, emotional dump.

The mercenary put a hand on his shoulder. “May I offer an interpretation based off of everything you just told me?” Jason nodded, lighting a cigarette for the first time in years. He mostly just wanted to watch it burn and see the smoke dance through the night sky. “It appears you are in fact, into men. Now, I don’t want to force any labels on you and only you can decide what all of this means but, it sounds like you may be bi or pan.”

He raised his eyebrows as he took a drag off the cigarette. “What makes you think that?” He had considered the possibility before, but his feelings were so jumbled up that it was hard to know anything for certain.

Rose took a deep breath. “You may not have said the ‘l-word’ to Essence and Kyle but given the way your eyes glossed over with sadness when you mentioned how both relationships ended, it is clear they both meant a lot to you. There is also the fact that you said you enjoy sex with guys and girls.”

“Biological responses to stimulation don’t necessarily mean anything,” Jason countered.

She rolled her eyes. “You’re right but let me finish.” She paused before saying, “Consider this; you typically don’t spend fifteen minutes describing the butterflies that took up residence in your stomach when you were around people like Essence and Kyle without there having been at least some romantic and sexual attraction to them.” Rose took the cigarette out of Jason’s hand and stuck it in her mouth. “Not to mention, you literally just told me that it feels right to be with someone intimately regardless of their gender.” She flicked some ash off the end of the cigarette. “Correct me if I’m wrong about anything you said.”

Jason sighed. “You’re right…it’s just…” He put his head in his hands. “What if I’m lying to myself about my attraction to girls and it turns out I’m just clinging to it in order to maintain some sort of sense of normalcy?”

“Jay,” Rose said sympathetically, “It is normal for men to like men.” She placed her hand on top of his. “It is normal to only like one gender and more than one. Hell, people can even live life without experiencing attraction to any gender and guess what? That is normal too! It’s okay not have it all figured out right away. Regardless of how long you take and what you ultimately discover is perfectly fine as long as you are happy and safe.”

He wrapped his arms around her. “Thanks Rose.”

She followed his lead, careful to keep the cigarette away from him as they hugged. “Of course.” When they pulled away from each other she asked, “You know what isn’t normal?”

“Hmm?” Jason said as he looked up at the sky.

“Pineapple on pizza,” Rose answered as she put out the cigarette.

“You can say that again,” Jason said, smirking.

Age 22:

He stretched as his alarm went off, ensuring that he would wake up in time for Sunday Brunch. Though, it’s not like he had far to go this week. Alfred had created a new rule where if someone was badly injured on a mission, they were required to stay at the manor for a minimum of twenty-four hours. Depending on the injury, it could easily be longer. The latter was the case with Jason after he was stabbed in the upper thigh two nights ago. He had spent most of his time reading in his old bedroom in an effort to avoid his two youngest siblings; the demon spawn and the one he now mentally referred to as secret keeper.

Two weeks after he and Rose had decided to be just friends, Dick had invited him out on patrol with their younger brother Martin. * After a few hours, they needed a break, so they had headed to a rooftop where Dick would proceed to try and pry into Jason’s life. When it was revealed that Jason and Rose had decided to be just friends, Dick had only asked more questions. Since Jason had given vague responses about the situation, his older brother had concluded that something related to his sexuality must have contributed to the end. He even went as far as to ask Jason if he was still figuring things out. Though it wasn’t specific, it was enough to trigger a series of events that would result in Jason taking Martin out for Bat Burger and explaining he wasn’t straight. Martin had been really accepting and vowed not to tell anyone. They hadn’t spoken about it again and that was how he preferred it.

Jason had figured himself out more since that night and was starting to make peace with all of it. Though on the other hand, he was not sure how to go about telling his family. He knew most, if not all of them, would be accepting of it but that did not really ease his nerves. Given that things were getting…interesting with Roy, he should probably tell everyone sooner rather than later.

He stretched his arms, rolled out of bed, and readied himself for the day. Even though he had been ready well before he needed to be, he was the last to join the family at the table because he had gotten a tad too entranced in The Count of Monte Cristo. As Jason sat down in his usual spot between Cassandra and Tim, he got the feeling he had missed a lot. Damian was pointing a fork at Tim, Martin had already resulted to admiring his nail polish, Steph was on her second mimosa, and Bruce had elected to read the newspaper.

“Good morning,” Alfred said as he rolled the food cart in. Everyone responded to him graciously. He began to set the serving dishes full of enough food for a small army onto the table. “Master Damian, careful of the hot pan,” he warned when he saw the youngest of Bruce Wayne’s children reaching for the fruit salad.

“Don’t worry, I’m not going to fight the twerp before breakfast,” Jason blurted causing Bruce to lower the paper just enough to survey the scene. Dick, Kate, Steph, and Harper were all smiling and seemed to understand what he had meant. Tim needed more caffeine before his brain fully processed it. Then there was Damian who was too busy scowling because of what he was called. What Jason had said seemed to go over everyone else’s heads, but he was alright with that. It was a small step forward that he had needed to take.

Martin began to uncontrollably cackle to the point he had tears streaming down his face. “I’m sorry that was good.” He wiped away a tear with his napkin. “Dick, pass the tater tot casserole please.” With that, the brunch moved forward with all the antics one would come to expect when they were all gathered together.

Afterwards, Jason managed to escape to his room as the others met in the living room for board games and chatter. He threw on some piano music and began reading once more. He became so focused that he barely heard Martin knocking on the door. “It’s open,” he said as he turned down the music.

His younger brother walked in and sat on the edge of Jason’s bed. “Congrats,” Martin said cheerfully.

“Thanks, Stabby Bird,” Jason said, referencing the young one’s love of knives. “What brings you up here?”

Martin shifted nervously. “What I already said. Mostly.” Poor kid looked like he was going to see brunch for a second time.

Jason set the book down. “Well, what’s the partly?”

“Just, uh, how did you go about figuring things out?” Martin asked, his voice was soft.

Jason raised his eyebrows. He knew this question wasn’t coming out of nowhere, but he didn’t want to press the issue. The kid would tell him when he was good and ready. “I mostly did it on my own. A lot of research and some, um, well experimenting. The secrecy began to take a toll on me after I…uh, handled something poorly. Eventually, I realized I couldn’t do it on my own and sought out Rose for advice. Over time, Roy became more of a confidant about the matter too.”

Martin nodded as he processed what he had just heard. “Would you have talked to someone sooner if you had known someone who had gone through something similar?”

“Hard to say. I’m not really one to talk about my emotions,” Jason answered. It wasn’t exactly the truth, but he didn’t want to out his friends or risk getting into detail about his relationship with Kyle. The part about him not being much of a talker was the only one hundred percent accurate part of what he had said.

“Thanks Jason,” Martin said. He gave him a quick hug before making a beeline for the hallway.

(Almost) 23:

He’d always had a soft spot in his heart for Roy, but it wasn’t until he had come to terms with who he was that he had figured out all that entailed. When Roy had told Jason last year that he was bi, the crush he had developed during their days as outlaws only grew. Ever since, Jason hadn’t exactly bothered to be subtle about his feelings for Roy despite the mixed signals he got on a near daily basis. He expected their night in to be no different in that department. Since Lian was off at Ollie’s for the night, the plan was to eat pizza while making fun of cheesy as all hell action movies.

It only took half an hour through the first movie for Jason’s desires to begin to make themselves known by subconsciously having him lean his head on Roy’s shoulder as they sat on the well-loved couch. They stayed like that until Roy put his arm around Jason’s shoulders shortly after. Jason blushed but didn’t say anything.

An hour and a half into the movie, Roy’s arm slowly moved to Jason’s waist, pulling him closer in the process. “Trying to tickle me Harper?”

“What?” Roy asked, clearly perplexed. Jason gestured to how they were sitting on the couch. The archer’s cheeks were as red as his hair. “Oh. Uh…I have no good answer for this.” He went to pull his arm away, but Jason stopped him.

“I didn’t mean it like that,” Jason said, meeting his eyes. His heart felt like it was going to leap out of his chest.

Roy swallowed. “What did you mean then?”

Jason caressed his cheek. “I don’t have a good answer for that.”

“Jaybird,” Roy said softly as the realization settled over him. He touched Jason’s cheek. “I think you do.” He leaned in, eyes closed and kissed Jason ever so gently. Jason gave a genuine laugh. “Did I do something wrong?”

“No. I’m just shocked that happened. In the best way possible that is,” Jason tried to explain. “Do you know how long I’ve been wanting you to do that?” He flashed a rare smile causing Roy to blush more.

Roy still had his hand on Jason’s face. “Why didn’t you say something?”

Jason’s eyebrows went up. “I have conveyed it in many a way. You’re just oblivious and the king of mixed messages.”

“Me!? Have you ever tried flirting with you? You’re impossible,” Roy shot back.

“I’m a tactical genius Harper, do you really think…” Jason began to tease.

Roy cut him off by pinning him down to the couch. “Just shut up and kiss me.”

Jason repositioned a bit. “Gladly,” he said before doing as Roy had said.