Chapter 1: One Thing After Another
Jason taps a pen against his lips, attention on his computer and the supply order he’s about to submit. It’s not every day his two best friends get married and he wants the reception Friday night to be as perfect as it can be considering it's being held in a dingy little bar in the Bowery. He’s already got everything for a deep cleaning, but he still can’t decide if he wants to take the week he’ll be closed and use it to do some painting. The place could do with a little brightening up, especially since a new no-smoking ordinance passed.
He could probably get it done if Colin is willing to help out. The kid is all about picking up odd jobs to help with his living expenses after losing the part of his scholarship that covered them. Tim is still pissed he can’t do anything to help with that, unless it’s to flat out write a check, which he knows Colin’s pride won’t let him accept.
It’s something Jason can relate to a little too well.
Summer probably isn’t the best time to have hired Colin, but it does give him the time to bring him up to speed for when football season starts. Besides, Roy and Kori specifically chose late June for their wedding since it means he can easily get by without them while they’re on their honeymoon, a month tour of Japan, one of the technology and fashion capitals of the world. This is where all of their hard-earned money is going. The wedding itself is just a trip to the courthouse Friday afternoon with the reception to follow at the bar, catered and hosted by him and Tim. Maybe there’ll be some partying after everyone’s stuffed themselves stupid, but that’s for the bride and groom to decide. There’s a lot to do, so Jason is glad he’s closed for the week. Four days should be plenty of time.
Triple checking his list against the screen, Jason hits submit. His supplier already knows this one is special, so hopefully they won’t fuck it up.
A light knock on the office door has him looking up in time to see Tim poke his head in. He’s the only one who ever knocks. “Hey, just wanted to let you know I’m in for the night.”
“Be careful Roy doesn’t see you, or he’ll put you to work.” The bar is steady this evening, what with most of their regulars stopping by to wish Roy luck. Colin is running the floor and the kitchen, having proved a rather deft hand with both the cutting board and the fryer. Stephanie has taken a rare Sunday night off. She wouldn’t say why, but Tim messaged him earlier that Tam has a date tonight, so they’re hoping the two gals are spending some time together.
“I’ll have to speak with his boss about that.” Tim winks at him. “Do you need a hand though? I can run upstairs and change.”
Jason remembers all to clearly what Tim wore when he left this morning for some rich person shindig he couldn’t get out of and the nice suit is not something to be worn behind a bar. “Nah, I’m headin’ back out. Just needed to submit this.”
Tim’s eyes light up. “Is that the supply order for the reception?”
“Yeah. I got plenty of those little cocktail weenies you and Roy can’t get enough of.”
“Guilty as charged. Well, if you don’t need me right now, I’m going to take an hour or so to just unwind.”
“That garden party was as godawful as I knew it would be. I also ran into the head of Gotham Electric while I was there. He’s trying to tell me they’ll have to rebuild the power grid in that area for my proposed usage and I’m telling them that my building will be so green they won’t even notice I’m there. Hell, I’ll probably be putting power back into the damned grid.”
The idealism of the rich. Jason bites his tongue as this isn’t an argument he cares to get into. “Well, you go chill and I’ll get back to work.”
Tim yawns widely, revealing his perfect white teeth. “A bath sounds amazing right about now.”
“You’re in the wrong place if you want one of those.” It hasn’t escaped Jason’s notice that Tim keeps hinting for him to install a bathtub in his loft. He’s got the space and his little bathroom could do with a remodel. Of course, his vision is one of those big jacuzzi tubs like what he has in the brownstone.
No thanks. That’s just a waste of money for how often he won’t use it.
“Yeah, but the drive across town sucks.” Tim pulls a pretty pout as he heads out of the office. “I’ll see you in a bit.”
Jason finishes up in the office and heads out to the bar to see what the damage is tonight. Most of their customers know Roy is getting married Friday and want to toast him, which is rather hard considering the redhead is a recovering alcoholic and refuses to let even a drop of alcohol pass his lips. All or none, that’s his rule and it’s worked for three years.
He may have to pick up the slack, knocking back a few to help his buddy out. That’s what the best man is supposed to do, right?
Behind the bar, Roy’s laughing at something one of the regulars says to him. He gives Jason a glance when he ducks under the counter and waves at him. “Hey, Jaybird, c’mere and listen to this. Joey here says he’s got the secret to a happy marriage.”
The man in question has been divorced twice that Jason is aware of. “I gotta hear this.”
He falls into an easy rhythm beside Roy, working the bar and taking orders for the occasional plate of food. Colin darts in and out of the kitchen, chatting easily with people as he buses tables. He still carries a tray with two hands, but practice makes perfect.
This right here, this is his normal. He and Roy move like a well-oiled machine and while there are a few hiccups with Colin, it’s nothing major. The kid’s got a learning curve, big deal. Hell, Jason had broken more glasses when he first started here than the newest member of his coterie of redheads has so far.
“Jason?” Colin calls out, waving to get his attention from the far end of the bar.
“You know you can come back here,” he replies, slinging a damp towel over his shoulder that reeks of spilled beer.
Colin shrugs awkwardly. “I know but it’s probably gets crowded with three big guys.”
Jason wants to laugh. The kid is more like a beanpole, tall and gangly, but he’s got a set of shoulders on him that will be rather impressive if he gains some muscle. “Don’t worry, you’ll fit. What’s up?”
“I think there’s something wrong with the garbage disposal,” he says in a quick rush of words. “It’s making a strange sound, like grinding metal. I checked to see if something got stuck but didn’t find anything.”
Well, fuck. “Right, let’s see what’s going on.”
In the kitchen, Jason runs the water in the sink and flips the switch for the garbage disposal. The metal on metal grinding noise is obnoxiously loud before it cuts off, leaving the room in silence.
Jason kneels and opens the cabinet beneath the sink. It smells of ozone and burnt plastic. What’s even more worrisome though is the large crack running down the outside of the casing.
“Goddammit.” He’s not an expert but even he can see the thing is a goner. “I’ll have to replace it. Hardware store is closed so I’ll stop by tomorrow. Just scrape the plates really good and rinse them before loading the dishwasher.”
“You got it, boss.” Colin kneels next to him and takes a peek. “I didn’t hear it crack. You’d think that would be loud.”
Jason shrugs. “Dunno. Never had this happen before.”
“Do you know how to install one?”
“Yeah. It’s more of a pain in the ass than anything else.” He doesn’t look forward to the hour or so he’ll be spending on his back doing it either. “But it is what it is. You wanna come over early and learn?”
Colin nods. “I like learning stuff like this. I picked up all kinds of random things growing up in the orphanage, but this is new.”
Yet another reason why the kid is growing on Jason. He’s not afraid of hard work.
Sighing, Jason gingerly reaches out and unplugs the garbage disposal, noting that the cord feels a little warm. Here’s to hoping it’s from whatever made the damn thing eat itself and not something else. An electrical problem is something he really doesn’t need right now.
The next morning, Jason is up early. Tearing himself away from Tim’s still sleeping form is always a challenge, but he’s got a ton of shit to do today. Friday will be here before he knows it.
Colin meets him at the hardware store and they’re soon in the bar kitchen ripping out the old garbage disposal and installing the new one. As Jason expected the night before, his back is killing him by the time they’re done. But hey, he’ll consider it a minor price to pay as nothing seems to be wrong with the power socket.
“Fuck, I feel old.”
“You’re not even 30 yet.”
“It’ll be here before I know it. Don’t rub it in.”
They move on to the bar and Jason shows Colin how to use the industrial carpet cleaner he’d bought for a steal last year. “This carpet is older than dirt and really needs to be ripped out, but I haven’t decided what to replace it with.”
Colin eyes it with some distaste. “How many runs does it usually take get it clean?”
“Last deep clean was a few months ago, so maybe three?”
Jason has Colin move all the barstools to the kitchen while he gets started. He’s barely gone one length of the bar when he feels his phone vibrating in his pocket. Turning off the loud machine, he answers.
“Jason?” an old woman’s voice asks. He recognizes it as old Mrs. Smythe who lives right above the used bookstore. “Good morning, I hope I’m not calling too early?”
“Nah, you’re fine, Mrs. Smythe. What’s up?” He leans against the bar and waits. This particular tenant is the oldest in the building and it can sometimes take her awhile to get to the point. She adores him and likes to bring homemade cookies along with her rent check each month. Mike always called her his Southern belle, what with her accent and pretty manners. How she ended up in Gotham and the Bowery is a story he’s yet to hear.
The old woman is surprisingly straight to the point. “I found a drip under the kitchen sink last night,” she says simply. “I put a basin beneath it since I didn’t want to interrupt you while you were working. It’s quite full now.”
That doesn’t sound good. “I’ll be right up,” Jason says. “Hopefully it’s just a seal.”
He ends the call and heads back to the kitchen where Colin is degreasing the oven.
“If the fumes from that crap don’t kill you, would you finish the carpets for me? I gotta run upstairs and check out some plumbing for one of my tenants.”
Jason leaves the bar and heads upstairs. Mike had taught him a lot about taking care of this finicky old building and he’s picked up even more in the years since the old man died, but he’s no professional. Still, he knows enough to recognize when he’s in over his head and as he knocks on Mrs. Smythe’s door and waits for her to shuffle across the living room to open it, he crosses his fingers that he doesn’t have to call the plumber.
It’s the O-ring seal in the faucet that’s gone bad. This is something he’s replaced many times before and keeps some extras on hand in his supply closet down in the basement.
By the time Jason is finished and is stuffed full from Mrs. Smythe’s shortbread cookies, his phone is ringing again.
“Hello?” he answers, wiping his hands on his jeans.
It’s Mrs. Alvarez up on the third floor. The light in her fridge is burned out. He hangs up with her and is out the door when his phone rings again.
“What the fuck?” Jason mutters, glaring at the damned thing. He’s the building superintendent, he gets that. When something goes wrong, his tenants call him to fix it. It’s part of his job description. What’s starting to annoy him is that he’s got other shit to do.
This time, it’s Lan Zhang, the manager of the nail salon he rents space to. One of her employees saw a mouse in the backroom.
It’s one thing after another and Jason is kept on his toes almost all day with various odd jobs around the building. When Tim calls to ask what he wants for dinner, he’s about ready to snap.
“Seriously, what the fuck is goin’ on around here? It’s like everyone knew I was takin’ the week off,” Jason vents, finally down in the bar to inspect the work Colin did on the carpets, as well as the scrub down of the walls he’d asked him to do. He didn’t intend for his new hire to get stuck with all this shit and feels bad that he did, even if the kid doesn’t seem to care in the slightest.
He’s too nice, is the problem. That’ll have to change.
“These things happen,” Tim replies, sounding all too reasonable. “Do you need a hand tomorrow?”
Jason bites back a laugh. Tim is a lot of things, but he can’t see his boyfriend down on his hands and knees cleaning a grease stained floor from the deep fryer he’s planning to move. Well, he can imagine him on his hands and knees easily, usually with his cock driving in and out of that sweet ass.
“Nah, I’m good. You do your office and red tape thing.”
“Trust me, I think I’d rather be cleaning the ice machine than dealing with all this damned paperwork.”
Tuesday morning dawns bright and early and yet again, Jason is loath to tear himself away from the slumbering warmth that is Tim, but kitchens don’t clean themselves and he’s got over a dozen barstools to break out the saddle soap and leather oil on, not to mention the chrome polish. At least the booths are vinyl. That reminds him he still needs to patch that one by the front door.
But Tim is so warm and cuddly for a change. He’d gotten back here late last night, some massive snafu at the building site keeping him busy long past the time he promised to be home and with dinner. Jason ended up cooking, which he doesn’t mind since it’s easier done for two than one. He’d been on his way to bed by the time Tim finally arrived, exhausted and pissed off.
Jason is pretty sure he remembers the sound of a shower before sleep took him, tired from his own long day and dreading the fact that he has to wake up early and do it all over again.
This doesn’t mean he can’t spare time for a cup of morning tea and as he enjoys his English Breakfast with some toast and the orange marmalade Alfred gave him the last time he stopped by, Jason can’t help but wonder what will go wrong today. Because something will. He’s got shit luck like that.
Across the loft, Tim crawls out of bed and shuffles his way toward the bathroom. Jason takes that as a sign for coffee and pours more water into his electric kettle. Even with the invite to bring over a coffeepot, Tim still uses the French press he’d snuck over months ago. It’s hard to believe they’ve been together almost a year now. Jason still has times where he can’t wrap his mind around it; thankfully, whenever he can’t Roy and Kori are glad to smack him back into line.
The coffee is ready by the time Tim takes a seat at the counter. Jason is rather proud of the fact he knows how to make it now, even if he does bitch about it more often than not.
“Nice bedhead,” he offers, eyeing Tim’s wild hair.
Tim scowls and tries to flatten it. “I shouldn’t sleep on it wet.”
“You say that every time.”
He gets the finger for that, which makes him laugh quietly. Words simply cannot be used to describe the hot mess that is Tim Drake-Wayne most mornings, even when he manages to get a full eight hours of sleep the night before. It’s a sight Jason still can’t get enough of, these unguarded moments before Tim’s brain kicks on and his gaze sharpens as the wheels begin to turn.
So he’s a sap. Big deal.
“I was hoping to be awake before you,” Tim says once he’s had a few sips of coffee.
“Oh?” Jason is up before him most mornings unless there’s an early morning meeting Tim can’t get out of.
“Wanted to wake you up with a good morning blowjob.”
Jason chuckles because Tim appears very disgruntled that he didn’t get his wish. “That would have been one hell of a way to say good morning.”
Tim nods in agreement. “You had a shitty day yesterday and then I was late getting back here. I felt bad you ended up making dinner when I said I would bring it.”
“It happens.” He shrugs, not bothered at all. “Besides, you still eat out too much.”
“I eat more salads than you think I do,” Tim retorts, making a face at him. “It’s not like I need you to pack a lunch for me.”
It’s on the tip of his tongue to say he will if Tim asks before Jason stops himself, shying away from the utter domesticity of this conversation. He’s had enough of that crap. “Well, once you have an actual office to go to everyday, maybe I will. As the boss’s boyfriend, you’d think that would grant me extra special visitation rights.”
“And what would those entail?” Tim asks, a smile teasing the corners of his mouth. The glint in his eyes tells Jason he knows exactly what he’s thinking.
“Hour long lunches where you eat whatever I bring you without complaining about it.” Jason grins behind his own mug as Tim pouts. He’s so expressive in the morning.
“What if I want your dick instead?”
This can be arranged. Jason leans back against the far counter and gestures toward his groin where he’s already hardening under Tim’s heated gaze. “It’s right here.”
Tim is up and around the island in no time flat, the baggy t-shirt he wears to bed doing nothing to hide his lean legs. Given a choice, he doesn’t wear underwear this early and Jason’s mouth waters in anticipation of getting his hands on him. In him, even.
This is what he needs. Right here, right now. Just something to help him relax and unwind, to remind him that he and Tim are so much more than two strangers passing by in the night.
If the eagerness with which Tim falls to his knees in front of Jason is any indication, he needs this too. He mouths at the soft fabric of Jason’s boxer briefs, pale blue eyes locked on his as he makes sure Jason is watching his every move.
In return, he drags a hand through Tim’s hair and tugs, catching the strands so he can see his boyfriend wrap his pretty mouth around him. That’s always his favorite part, watching him take whatever he gives him. “How do you want it?” Jason asks, his voice already rough with need.
Tim’s fingers dip under the elastic waistband. “However you want to give it to me.”
Jason can think of any number of ways he’d like to see his cock slide past Tim’s lips. He tugs harder and Tim’s eyes roll back at the sting. This is something new they discovered recently, that Tim likes a little bit of pain when he’s in the right mood. Apparently, this is one of those times, which leaves only one option for how things will go. “I’m gonna fuck your mouth,” he says, rubbing his thumb over Tim’s lips and watching him part them so he can slip it inside. “And if you’re good, then afterward, I’ll give you a hand. If you’re really good, I’ll fuck you with my fingers.”
“I’m always good,” Tim breathes, yanking Jason’s briefs down just enough for the tip of his cock to peek out from under the waistband. His tongue darts out and licks it kitten-like, toying with the barbell piercing the underside of the shaft. “Do you need a reminder?”
Before Tim can punctuate that sentence and close his mouth fully over the head, there’s a loud knock at the door. “Jason? Are you in there?” a man’s voice calls out. “The laundry is flooded!”
Fuck. Fuck, fuck, fuckity fuck.
He knew this day started off too good to be true. Goddammit.
Chapter 2: When It Rains...
I may have been working on this chapter while I was doing some home remodeling of my own...
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
His day only gets worse from there.
The interruption is enough to kill his boner, but the frustration stays with him throughout each minor emergency that crops up each and every time he tries to settle into doing anything for himself. Whether it’s down at the bar where he’s stripping the lacquer on wood countertop so he can re-varnish and seal it, or when he’s upstairs trying to make lunch for himself and Colin, his phone seems like it is constantly going off the fucking hook.
Jason isn’t one to say he hates his life, but this is one of those days where he fucking wishes he could just drop his phone out the goddamned window.
By the end of it, not only has he replaced the leaky hose down in the laundry room and cleaned up that mess, but he’s also replaced yet another garbage disposal in one of the apartments and had to rip out a toilet after a bored kid decided to see what would happen if he stuck a cherry bomb in the tank. Thank fucking god it was the tank because if that sucker had been flushed…
Yeah, well, at least that kid got his ass ripped a new one, by him and by his dad.
The new toilet arrives tomorrow, so that’s something else he has to add to his plate.
It’s late by the time Jason makes it upstairs for the night. His big project for the bar is half done, but it’s the most time-consuming part, so he’s okay with that. Fans are blowing and he’s got the air conditioning turned on a few degrees lower to keep the air moving overnight so he and Colin don’t pass out from the fumes in the morning.
A shower sounds absolutely wonderful and as he unlocks his door, he’s quietly pleased to see Tim isn’t here. Tonight, he just needs some time for himself.
He spends a little longer than normal in the bathroom, letting the hot water beat down on sore muscles. A little voice that sounds like Tim reminds him that he could install a tub, which would be even more fantastic for soothing away his aches and pains. That voice gets the finger. After all the maintenance calls he’s gotten between today and yesterday, home renovation projects are the last thing he wants to tackle.
Fingers trail sensually over his skin, stroking lightly as he tries to decide if he wants to rub one out. It’s easy to pretend that it’s Tim standing behind him, in front of him, deftly teasing a nipple with his tongue as his hand slides lower and lower toward his cock.
Which apparently has decided not to join the party.
Jason glares at it. “Seriously? I’m not that old yet.”
Still, the stimulation did feel nice, even if it ended up going nowhere.
When he’s done in the bathroom, he tosses his dirty clothes in the hamper and checks to make sure his phone is on the charger before collapsing into the sweet embrace of his bed. Tonight is one of those nights where he doesn’t even try to stay up late. Tim’s pillow still smells like him, so he hugs it close as he falls into an exhausted slumber.
Wednesday starts with his phone ringing.
Of fucking course. Jason rolls over and glares at it, catching the time as he does. What happened to his alarm? It’s already after eight and he needs to be downstairs for that toilet delivery…
“Shit.” He reaches over and answers it.
Sure enough, it’s the delivery from his home supply store. For once, they’re on time.
Jason is up, dressed, and downstairs in a flash, opening the metal door to the loading dock for the truck to unload.
What a way to start the day. He inspects the box to make sure it’s the right one, something he’s learned to do before accepting packages now, and signs for it. As the truck drives away, Jason loads the bulky box on the dolly and wheels it inside before returning to lock things back up.
Getting it up two flights of stairs is an adventure and a half, as is installing it with a sullen teenager acting as an assistant.
Well, at least the kid knows how to install a toilet now. Important life lesson, right there.
Jason takes a breather after that and heads down to the bar where Colin is already there and finishing up the last of the deep clean he’d started in the kitchen.
“This is really fucking impressive,” Jason says after he finishes his inspection. “I don’t think I could have done a better job.”
Colin beams, color flooding his cheeks and emphasizing his freckles. “Thanks, boss! The sisters always said that if you’re going to do something, do it right the first time.”
“Smart ladies.” Jason nods slowly, taking everything in. Even the fryer had been moved, scrubbed, and set back in place. That thing is a bitch to clean and is the one chore around this place that he always ends up tackling because it sucks so bad. It’s almost on par with cleaning the bathrooms.
His stomach rumbles, reminding him that he hasn’t had breakfast yet, or even his morning tea. There’s nothing down here aside from some condiments and a container of pub-mix, which doesn’t sound appealing at all, but he does have a few coffee mugs, a microwave, and an emergency stash of tea.
It’s not ideal, but when needs must…
“What’s next?” Colin asks as Jason fills a mug and sets the timer.
“Honestly, you’ve managed to get everything done back here that I was planning to work on this afternoon and tomorrow.” Jason leans against the counter and crosses his arms, thinking. “Did the walls get scrubbed down out in the bar?”
That already feels like forever ago.
“I think it’s time to brighten up the place. Let’s say we grab a quick bite, then head over to the hardware store and pick up a few gallons of paint.”
Colin grins. “Sounds like a plan to me.”
Jason’s phone manages to stay mostly silent until mid-afternoon. The timing isn’t entirely horrible as he and Colin have made some pretty decent progress with their painting. Only the trim and the edge up by the ceiling in the main part of the bar need to be done, as well as the wall by the kitchen.
Colin sets down his roller and shakes his head at Jason’s scowl. There’s paint in his hair. “It’s like they know, boss.”
“When it rains it pours.” Jason answers and sure enough, it’s one of his tenants. Tina Jacobi on the second floor swears she’s hearing something crawling around under her kitchen cabinets.
He’s already had to deal with one mouse this week, he really doesn’t need a second one. Still, when he heads downstairs to grab his toolbelt, he also detours to a locked supply cabinet and grabs a couple of the new traps he’d picked up, as well as rat poison. Gotham rats are serious business; he swears they’re mutants or genetically altered because practically nothing keeps them at bay except for cats. The ones that make the alley out back home are just as mean; they mostly like him, especially when he leaves the occasional treat.
Upstairs, Mrs. Jacobi has helpfully emptied the lower shelves of her kitchen cabinets and the space under the sink.
“I’m not sure where to start,” she says, kneeling down beside him. “If you’re really quiet, you can hear it toward the back there.”
It takes a couple of minutes, but Jason finally hears it. A faint squeaking noise comes from the back of the cabinet closest to the fridge.
He gets to work, prying up the bottom panel. Instantly, he swears. “Jesus, fuck.”
Well, it’s not a mouse. It’s a rat, and not one of the nasties from outside. This is a domesticated rat, and one who’s built a nest of fluff and shredded paper where she’s got what looks like nearly a dozen little babies.
Mrs. Jacobi gasps, thankfully not shrieking in his ear. “Where did she come from?”
“Let’s find out. Shine the flashlight around, would ya?”
His tenant complies and together they both spot the hole in the wall where the baseboard and drywall have rotted away.
Two problems come to mind. One, how long will this take to fix? Second, which of his tenants has a lost pet of the rodent variety? Because someone must and is keeping quiet about it as his lease agreement very clearly states that only fish, cats, and dogs under thirty pounds are allowed in this building.
Still, he’s not entirely heartless. “Tina, hand me that mesh strainer of yours. We need to find some place to keep these guys until I find the owner.”
“I have an old aquarium that should do for now.” She hands him the strainer, which he uses to place over the top of the mama rat and her babies, keeping them from going anywhere. Or rather, keeping the mama from going anywhere. Jason isn’t entirely sure how maternal these critters are, and he’d rather keep them together if possible.
The rats are soon contained, and Mrs. Jacobi is figuring out how to get them some water. Apparently, she’d had a pet rat as a kid and isn’t afraid of them. “They’re actually great pets,” she tells him as he inspects the hole to see what all he has to do to fix it.
He knows how to patch drywall, no problem. Replacing baseboard is a little trickier because that requires exact measurements. His main concern is that there seems to be a corresponding hole on the other side, which means he’s got double the work.
“That’s nice and all, but not everyone thinks the same way.” Jason rises and stretches, feeling a vertebrae pop as he does. Time to go knocking on another door. Before he leaves, he takes a picture of the rats with his phone, just in case someone tries the denial game.
The apartment behind Mrs. Jacobi’s is rented out to a recently divorced man who has a daughter in her early teens that he’s got joint custody with. Charles Decker works hard and works nights, so Jason hopes it’s not too early for him to be waking up.
He’s one of the few men around that makes Jason feel small, which, considering he played football in college until an injury put him on the bench for good, makes perfect sense. The man is a regular in the bar during football season, but other than that, Jason rarely sees him.
Bleary eyes stare at him when the door finally opens. “You know what time it is, right?”
“Yeah, and I’m sorry for waking you up,” Jason replies, holding up his phone. “I need to know though, does this little gal look familiar?”
Decker’s dark skin pales. “Shit. Makayla knows she’s not supposed to bring her here. The hell’s goin’ on?”
“Makayla’s pet rat got out, made a nest under your neighbor’s kitchen cabinet, and had lots of babies, that’s what. I need access to your kitchen to see how big the hole is from your side. Is your daughter around? I think she’s got some explaining to do while I’m at it.”
Jason doesn’t really care about the sob story he hears from the teen. His attention is on the chewed up baseboard and the hole in the drywall. A quick shine of the flashlight reveals where the other hole is that the rat found in the first place. All of this is stuff he can repair; it’s just time consuming and he has other things he’d rather be doing.
Like getting shit together for his best friends’ wedding.
He rocks back on his heels and mentally slaps himself upside the head. This is all part of his job. Mike had to deal with this crap all the time and so does he.
Doesn’t mean he has to like it.
By the time eight o’clock rolls around, Jason is utterly exhausted. There’s a new drywall patch in place on both sides of the wall. The joint compound is drying, so he has to return in the morning to finish the job, which is fine since he has to run down to the hardware store again for his baseboard.
Before heading upstairs, he stops by the bar. Colin had sent him a message a while ago saying he’d finished up and was leaving for the day. When Jason sees the completed paint job, as well as how much the kid had cleaned up from all of it, he decides then and there that Colin is getting a bonus once everything settles down, even if he has to blow Tim a few times.
Jason checks his phone as he honestly can’t remember if the man is staying here tonight or if he’s back at his brownstone again. It’s definitely another one of those nights where he just wants to crawl into bed, preferably by himself.
The last message from Tim is a couple hours ago, and one that Jason never replied to.
Timmers: Want me to pick up dinner tonight?
Crap. Jason locks up the bar and heads upstairs where he finds Tim sprawled out on the sofa, still dressed in a shirt and tie and utterly passed out. On the counter sits some takeout containers that smell tantalizingly like Chinese. His stomach growls, reminding him that he hasn’t eaten since he and Colin returned from the hardware store with their painting supplies.
Well, he’s not one to pass up food, especially if he doesn’t have to pay for it.
It’s still somewhat warm, so Tim must not have been here for very long. Jason inhales the fried rice and broccoli beef, not even bothering to grab a plate.
He’s almost done when a pair of arms snake around his waist and Tim leans into his back, a solid warmth that does more to help him relax than any hot shower. Okay, so maybe he can stay.
“Someone was hungry,” Tim says teasingly.
“Someone’s been doing manual labor again today, fuck you very much.”
“So I heard from Colin when I called the bar after you didn’t answer my text.”
Jason furrows his brow as the times click into place. “How late was he here?”
“Late enough that I picked up dinner for him too and gave him a ride home before coming back here.” Tim presses a kiss onto the back of Jason’s neck. “He’s got one hell of a work ethic, but I also think he’s trying to take some of the weight off your shoulders. I know he’s only been here about a month, but he understands how much Roy and Kori mean to you, so he just wants to help.”
“The fact that he’s getting paid for all this probably helps too.”
“Yes, but he’s also one of those genuinely nice guys. Like Dick.”
Jason snorts and turns in Tim’s arms. “Dick is a douche.”
Tim smiles up at him. “Dick is Dick.”
“All this talk of dick reminds me of something I wanted ask.” Jason settles back against the counter so that he’s a little more eye level with his boyfriend. “Colin seriously needs a bonus or some shit after pickin’ up my slack. But my petty cash for the bar is tied up in the wedding reception and paying him, so I won’t be able to give him anything until after Roy and Kori are back from their trip.”
He could do it from his personal funds, but as long as Kori is in charge of his numbers, he would rather avoid the lecture.
“Do you need to borrow some cash?” Tim is already nodding, because obviously a couple hundred bucks means nothing to someone who’s a fucking Wayne heir.
Jason draws him in closer and burrows his face into the side of Tim’s neck. Black hair tickles his nose, even as the scents of Tim’s cologne and shampoo join the party. Gently, he nips at the soft skin, working his way up until he’s able to trace the outline of Tim’s ear with his tongue. All previous thoughts about exhaustion fall away when Tim lets out a breathy chuckle.
“Are you trying to seduce me into lending you money, Mr. Todd?” Tim asks, his hands already under Jason’s t-shirt and kneading into the skin at the small of his back. “I thought you didn’t want to hit up the Bank of Drake.”
“I can swallow my pride for a couple hundred bucks.” Jason catches the lobe and nibbles, careful to avoid the piercing that’s still healing. Another three weeks or so and Tim will be able to change it out. “Or rather, swallow yours.”
“So that’s how dick plays into this.” Tim laughs while Jason starts unbuttoning his dress shirt. “I was wondering.”
“I can pay you back in about a month.” His fingers snag on Tim’s belt, working it loose before he pops the button on the denim beneath. Tim has taken to wearing jeans instead of suit pants recently, even if he can’t quite ditch the shirt and tie yet.
“Is this an interest payment then?”
Jason flips them around so that Tim is pressed against the kitchen counter and drops to the floor, taking his jeans and boxers with him. He licks up the inside of Tim’s thigh. “I’d say you’re definitely interested.”
With that, the teasing is over and he gets to work, taking Tim’s half-hard cock in his mouth and sucking hard. This is something Jason never gets tired of. Watching the Wayne heir, his boyfriend, fall to pieces over something only he’s ever been able to do for him.
Tim’s walls come crumbling down whenever Jason gets his hands and mouth on him.
A long fingered hand falls to Jason’s hair and tugs, sending a shiver down his spine. The other joins it, cradling his head as Tim cautiously rocks his hips forward in a wordless question.
Jason splays his hands on the back of Tim’s thighs, taking his cock even deeper into his mouth and swallowing around the head. He’s ready and moans to make sure Tim knows it.
Tim thrusts cautiously at first, but quickly speeds up when Jason growls impatiently for him to get on with it. He needs this just as badly as Tim, if not more. Things have spiraled so far out of his control this week that he needs something to ground him again. The closeness between the two of them, the fact that Tim has seen his darker side and hasn’t run screaming, that Tim opened up and showed him what he’s capable of doing… This helps. A lot.
“Jaaaaay,” is the only warning he gets before Tim is coming in hot waves down his throat.
He coaxes the last drop from him before rocking back on his heels, grinning up at Tim. “Well, I’d say someone enjoyed himself.” Jason wipes his mouth with the back of his hand.
“Get up here.” Tim all but yanks him to his feet and slams his mouth against his, delving deep inside to chase after the taste of himself.
Jason is more than okay with this, even as Tim fumbles for his belt. He needs a release, needs it so badly, and while it would be great to pick Tim up and fuck him right here against the kitchen counter, he doubts he’ll last that long.
Tim deftly works his way into Jason’s jeans and wraps a hand firmly over his cock, thumb instinctively teasing the barbell at the tip. “Come on, Jay,” he whispers against the corner of Jason’s mouth as he starts to stroke. “You know you want this. Need it. Hand or mouth, I don’t care. Just let me give it to you.”
It’s almost to the point where Jason doesn’t care either, as long as he gets to come. His muscles clench as his body prepares for it, drags it out. He needs this with Tim so fucking badly and…
From his back pocket, his phone rings.
“Son of a bitch.” Jason comes hard all over Tim’s hand, gasping in air that he just now realizes he’s been neglecting to breathe as he worked himself up. Still, the entire experience feels rather anticlimactic as the phone keeps ringing.
“I swear to God, that better be Roy,” Tim says, holding him close.
It isn’t. They both know that. Roy has annoying as hell ringtone that sounds like a robot on crack.
Jason draws away and fumbles for the phone. “What?” he all but snaps in lieu of a polite answer. Fuck that, whoever this is just stole what would have been a fantastic orgasm.
Of course, it’s another of his tenants, this one complaining about a clogged drain in the bathroom.
“Can it wait until morning?” he asks. “Or can I bring you some drain cleaner right now to try?”
In front of him, Tim leans back against the counter and raises his dirty hand to his lips, tongue sneaking out to lap at his fingers. He hasn’t even bothered to pull up his own pants yet, looking for all the world like a debauched businessman who’s just waiting for round two.
Jason wants to whine as the tenant states he’s already tried drain cleaner and the stuff that’s supposed to work on hair clogs too. The man has a wife and a daughter, both with long hair; he knows the ropes.
“Fine. Gimme twenty minutes.”
He hangs up and gives Tim a pointed look. “You’re not helping.”
“Didn’t plan on it. Will you be long?”
“Depends on what the fuck is wrong with that drain.”
“I’ll try not to hog the entire bed then.”
Oh, dear. What am I going to do to Jason next?
Chapter 3: ...It Pours
It’s a doll head. Jason eyes the half-dissolved piece of plastic and fibers with some disgust while the tenant outright groans.
“I was wondering where that was,” he says with some trepidation.
“You always let Ally play with decapitated Barbies?”
The question is purely rhetorical as Jason really doesn’t give a shit one way or the other. He just winds up the drain snake and tucks it into his tool belt. Tim has made more than one comment about wanting to see him wearing nothing but that some night, but he doesn’t get the appeal.
Leather chaps, on the other hand...
Jason says goodnight and heads downstairs to put everything away. His boots thud heavily on the steps, weariness sapping all energy from his limbs. If Tim weren’t in the loft, odds are good he’d take a nap in the bar before making the trip back up four flights of stairs from the very bowels of the building.
His steps drag even more as he hauls his ass back to the loft. The lights are dim when he enters and locks up behind him. Jason fumbles with his boots, swearing as one of the laces knots up.
“Shhh, I got this,” Tim says, appearing out of nowhere to kneel at his feet. “Let me help, Jay.”
There really isn’t anything Jason can do other than let him untie the heavy laces, so he just leans heavily against the door and moves whenever Tim nudges him.
“Come on,” Tim coaxes as he rises smoothly to his feet when he’s done. “Shower, then bed.”
“Don’t wanna,” Jason tries, but he’s already following after his boyfriend, unable to escape the firm hold he has on his hand.
“Yes, you do. You stink. All that manly sweat from hard labor.”
Jason would like to see Tim do what he does just once and see if he comes out smelling pretty as a peach afterward. One of these days, he’ll have to mention it.
In the bathroom, Tim gets the shower ready while he strips down. The water is just this side of too hot, but it feels wonderful on his aching back. Distantly, he knows Tim is in the stall with him, turning him this way and that as he helps him wash.
What did he do to deserve this guy?
“You gave me sound business advice,” Tim comments out of the blue.
“Your brain to mouth filter isn’t quite on anymore.”
“Oh.” Jason chuckles, feeling like the sound is being dragged from him. “I think a case can be made for if it’s ever on at all.”
Tim laughs and turns off the water. “I don’t think you give yourself enough credit.”
“Does it really matter?”
“Yeah, it does.”
Jason doesn’t care enough to pursue that line of thought, not right now. He accepts the towel Tim hands him and dries off.
They finish the rest of their little bedtime routine and are soon stretched out in bed. The cool cotton sheets feel amazing. The central air is doing its thing, despite the heat of the day, so when Tim spoons up behind him, pressing firmly against the small of his back, it doesn’t grate on his nerves. In fact, he welcomes it; his own little heating pad.
“I think I’m getting old,” Jason mumbles into his pillow.
“Oh?” Tim kicks the blanket down to the end of the bed and draws the top sheet over them both before settling down.
“My back. Might need to pick up one of those braces.”
Tim nods, his hair tickling the back of Jason’s neck. “Considering all the lifting you do, a lumbar brace wouldn’t be a bad idea.”
“See? Even you think I’m getting old.” Jason yawns so widely his jaw pops.
Behind him, Tim huffs one of his small laughs. “You’re not old. You’re experienced.”
“Tell that to my refractory period.”
“I have no complaints. Now go to sleep.”
Jason lets Tim have the last word, already falling into a deep and restful sleep.
The next morning, they’re both up bright and early since Jason needs Tim’s car to haul the baseboard. He already has the measurements, so it just has to be matched up and cut, which shouldn’t take long. Tim takes forever to get his ass in gear, which causes Jason to wonder if his boyfriend woke up in the middle of the night and had a hard time getting back to sleep.
It’s not exactly uncommon, not with everything Tim juggles to get Drake Industries back up and off the ground. A lot of cursing out city officials is involved, Jason knows that much. Tim has mentioned more than once that certain people still expect their palms to be greased, which he’s passed on to Barbara.
Jason just hopes Tim isn’t ready to go back out at night and do what he used to in order to find evidence. The last thing he wants to do is head down to Central to pay bail for someone wearing a mask and a cape.
“I never wore a mask or a cape,” Tim protests when Jason comments about it as he pulls up in front of the hardware store.
“What about tights? Those could be hot.”
Tim makes a face. “When we talked about wearing costumes and doing some roleplay to spice things up, this was not what I had in mind.”
“Honestly, I’ll settle for your ass in a jockstrap if you’d rather not wear panties.” Jason winks and gets out of the car, enjoying just how beat red Tim’s cheeks turn.
The start to his day honestly can’t get any better.
Tim drops him back off at the building, helping him unload before disappearing into the city for the first of his myriad of appointments. He’s got a busy day from what Jason remembers him saying earlier, but it also means he can take tomorrow off for the wedding without any guilt. If Kori doesn’t have her photographer, there will be hell to pay.
As Jason gets to work in Mrs. Jacobi’s apartment, he quietly curses himself for forgetting to at least look at the back braces at the store and carefully stretches before getting down on his knees (the kneepads he already has) to install the new board.
Does it really need to be there since the cabinets back up right against the wall? No, it doesn’t, especially since no one will ever even know it’s missing unless he tells them. But Mike’s words about doing a half-ass job and taking some goddamned pride in his work are still drilled into his head and probably will be for the rest of his life, so he nails it in place with nails so small he has a hard time gripping them, and then caulks the rest to create an even seam.
Then he does it again from the other side.
By the time that’s all done and everything is put away, it’s after ten.
Jason heads down to the bar and putters around, mostly looking over his recipes to see what he can get done this afternoon after his supply order arrives because he sure as hell won’t have much time tomorrow. Not only does he have everything for the reception, but it has his usual weekly order too for when he opens the bar Monday night.
He’s starting to see why Tim is so fond of lists. His is the only thing keeping him on track. Well, that and Colin’s help. The kid should be here soon to help out with the grocery run for some of the more special items he didn’t order through his supplier.
His phone rings, and for an instant, Jason thinks it’s one of his tenants with some new disaster for him. Then the actual tone sinks in and he answers, grinning. “Bored already?”
“How can I be bored? I’m the one getting married tomorrow,” Roy replies with what is undoubtedly a grin of his own.
“Kori keeping you busy?”
“You have no idea.” Roy sighs, already sounding utterly exhausted. “I’m supposed to ask if I’m still coming over tomorrow afternoon to get ready?”
His friends were definitely the non-traditional type and didn’t see the point in sleeping anywhere other than their apartment the night before their wedding.
“Yeah, around two, right?”
They had to be at the courthouse by five, so that left two hours for Jason to help Roy get ready and take care of any last minute jitters.
“That’s what the boss says,” Roy replies. “Tim’s still playing the photographer?”
“Last time I checked.” Jason knows that if his best friend could see the look on his face right now, he’d sock him one. “Tell Kori to text him what time he needs to be over. I think she wants him there to take pictures of her and Donna getting ready?”
“What are we? Chopped liver?” This time Roy laughs. “Honestly, that’s fine with me. Gives us some time to just hang out before the noose tightens.”
“If it’s made from Kori’s hair, at least you’ll go with a smile on your face.”
“Ain’t that the truth? I’ll see ya tomorrow, Jay. Don’t kill yourself tonight trying to make everything perfect.”
Someone must have been telling tales and it’s even odds as to whether it’s Tim or Colin. “I’ll do what I want, Roy. Try getting some actual sleep tonight. Maybe one last round or two of unmarried sex before the ring goes on.”
Roy laughs even harder. “The one for my finger or the one for my cock?”
“I’m not takin’ your dumbass to the ER if you try to fit your cock through your wedding ring.”
“Nah, I got lots of jewelry down there. Don’t need any more.”
Jason feels a lot better after talking with his best friend, but as he shuffles his recipe printouts around on the stainless steel prep table in the kitchen, he starts to wonder what will change once the wedding is over. For the longest time, it’s been just him, Roy, and Kori versus the rest of the world. He’s never felt like the third wheel, even when his friends became somewhat more exclusive. Hell, even when Roy put that engagement ring on Kori’s finger, he’s never wished them anything but the best.
Belatedly, it dawns on him that he’ll never sleep with the two of them again, at least not like they used to. Wild, crazy, high on adrenaline and sweat after a night of partying, sometimes something else. The three of them all but grew up together and now, Roy and Kori were taking that next big step in their lives, basically leaving Jason behind.
But at the same time, he knows deep down that they’re not. That his time will come and, if things stay the way they are, his adventure down that road called life is going to be a lot bumpier, no matter what Tim tries to shield him from.
Why is he dating a Wayne again?
A knock at the kitchen door tears Jason from his thoughts and he welcomes the distraction.
“Good morning, boss!” Colin says cheerfully when he’s let inside. Nothing ever seems to get the kid down and Jason decides to borrow some of his optimism today. While there’s been a lot of shit these last few days and he hasn’t been able to pull his weight the way he wanted to, everything is still on schedule and then some thanks to this guy.
Colin has more than earned that extra money he’s borrowing from Tim.
“Mornin’. Heard you had a late night.”
“So did you.”
“Yeah, but I wasn’t the one who got a ride home from his favoritest person in the whole wide world.”
The redhead has the decency to blush because yeah, he’s definitely a fan of Tim. It’s not every day someone you write a paper about is suddenly a fixture in your life. Or as much as Tim can be with all the crap he’s dealing with in his make-shift office down by the river.
“That’s not even a word, boss.”
Jason grins. “I said it, didn’t I?”
“Still doesn’t make it a real word.”
“Shut your face. We’ve got shopping to do.”
“Holy fuck, why did I buy so much?” Jason groans as he gratefully sets down the grocery bags on the kitchen counter at the bar. Some of this has to be brought upstairs to the loft, but that can damn well wait.
“I don’t get why you had to go all the way over to Coventry just to go to that store.” Colin sounds no less exhausted than he does, his fair skin flush from exertion and the sun.
Jason’s about ready for a stiff drink. He knew he should have borrowed Tim’s car this morning. Between the subway and the bus, not to mention all the walking in the muggy Gotham heat with what has to be close to fifty pounds of groceries, he’s just done. “When I asked Alfred where to find some good fish, he said that particular chain always has the best product. That was the closest one.”
Speaking of which… He finds the insulated bag and immediately takes it to the fridge where he places the big package of salmon filets inside. The paper is still cool to the touch, thank god.
They take a few minutes to cool off and unwind. Jason makes lunch and once everything is cleaned up, he shows Colin his recipes and goes over what can be done this afternoon.
“I doubt I’ll have much time tomorrow to do anything,” he comments as he demonstrates how to properly dice an onion. “Not with how my luck’s been this week.”
“It’s been pretty quiet today, boss.”
“Don’t jinx it.”
Time passes and it’s about three o’clock before Jason realizes the weekly delivery hasn’t arrived yet.
“Where are those guys?” he mutters, checking his watch. “They’re usually here by two.”
“Maybe there was an accident somewhere?” Colin answers, even though the question was purely rhetorical.
“Maybe.” Jason finishes what he’s doing and stops by the sink to wash his hands. “That dough’s done. You don’t want to overwork it. Place it in some cling wrap and toss it in the fridge. I’ll be right back.”
Considering the way his week’s been, it’s entirely possible he fucked up and didn’t submit his order properly. Or that it didn’t go through. In the office, he double checks and everything looks all right. Still, a prickle of unease runs down his spine as he reviews what he ordered for the reception.
Half a case of the good champagne. Several bottles of top shelf liquor he doesn’t normally keep on hand. Those cocktail weenies Roy and Tim can’t get enough of, plus a bunch of other items he can doctor into respectable food for a wedding reception.
It should be enough. It had to be enough. He's spent the better part of three weeks planning everything. Hell, he even went to Wayne Manor to practice a few things under Alfred's watchful eye. Beef Wellington may be old school, but damn does it taste good.
His nerves are raw by the time the buzzer on the loading dock rings 45 minutes later.
“About goddamned time,” Jason grumbles as he heads back, Colin on his heels with the dolly.
“Things happen,” Colin replies in that too patient tone of his. Seriously, sometimes Jason thinks the guy is pursuing the wrong calling in life. Nothing fazes him.
He slides open the corrugated steel door in one smooth movement to reveal the simple white, refrigerated box truck.
“Sorry, we're late,” the driver says as they start unloading the truck and moving the boxes and cartons onto the dock. It’s Adam, the usual guy he sees every week. “There was an accident on the Sprang Bridge and we were completely stuck. Couldn't move for almost two solid hours.”
That’s an excuse Jason can understand. “That had to suck.”
“Just glad the refrigeration held out.”
Small talk done, Adam unloads the order while Jason checks it against his print out. Within moments, he knows something is wrong.
Everything for his normal order is here. The beer, the bottom shelf booze, hell, even the cooking oil for those fried pickles he’s famous for is there. But he doesn’t see any of the extra items for the reception.
Jason sucks in a deep breath and lets it out slowly. “Is this everything?”
He knows better than to blow up at Adam, tempting as it is. The poor schmuck is just the messenger. At the same time, he can’t let the guy go until he speaks with the distributor. “I need to speak with your boss. I ordered some extra items this week and they’re not here.”
Adam frowns, but nods. He knows the drill.
“Colin, get this guy something to drink while I sort this out.” See? He’s not completely heartless.
Jason steps off to the side with his cell and dials a number he could rattle off in his sleep. A couple of prompts later... “Hey Robby, it’s Jason Todd. I seem ta be missin’ a few things...”
What he hears next is a bunch of complete and utter bullshit and he doesn’t hesitate to say so. “I gotta confirmation number right here. I even called last week ta let ya know this would be different from my standin’ order, so don’t sell me that crock of shit.”
The more pissed off he gets, the more his accent slips, sliding back into the lower Gotham tones he was born with. He tries so hard to clean it up, especially around Tim, but the syllables roll from his tongue as he starts cursing even more.
“Goddammit, Robby, that’s a piss poor excuse and ya know it.”
“I’m sorry, Jason. I can get your extra order on the next truck tomorrow but that delivery route’s been set and I can’t change it. The soonest I can get everything to you won’t be until after six.”
“I won’t even be here. My best friends are gettin’ married tomorrow evenin’.” Jason runs a hand through his hair and tugs on the ends, scalp stinging from how hard he pulls. This is just fucking great. The icing on the goddamned cake for this week from hell. “Forget it. I’ll figure somethin’ else out.”
“I’ll make sure you get a statement credit...” Robby tries but Jason hangs up on him.
His scowl and glare must be something else because Adam takes one look at him and hops down off the dock. A truck door slams a moment later and he drives away, the scent of exhaust lingering in the stagnant air.
“Boss?” Colin asks quietly, approaching him like he would a feral cat. “That doesn’t sound like it went well.”
Jason knows Colin means well but all he can see is red. All the crap from the last few days, all the distractions, everything that’s been piling up one after another...
He hurls his phone against the concrete wall of the loading bay. The screen shatters and the case cracks, but it’s not enough. It’s not enough. One of his boots stomps hard and the case breaks completely. The crunch of the little tiny electronic pieces within do nothing to satisfy his rage.
He hears his name distantly but the roar in his ears is too loud. All his hard work to make Friday perfect for the two people who mean the most to him in the entire world and it all means nothing, nothing, because of one monumental fuck up by something completely out of his control.
Jason roars and punches the wall. Once. Twice. Three times, and shit, that fucking hurts. The pain snaps him out of it, and he shakes his hand, only to stop short as a flash of burning pain sears down his arm.
“Fuck.” He blinks hard and takes a look at his hand.
Blood smears his knuckles, the skin shredded from the force he used to strike the wall. Jason knows how to throw a damned punch, so he also knows what that pain means.
“Fuck,” he repeats, this time with feeling because damn, did he screw up.
Jason waves Colin off with his good hand. “I think I broke my hand.”
“Yeah, I think so too.” The redhead’s tone is drier than the desert. “Punching a concrete wall will do that.”
“I take back all the nice things I’ve ever said about you.” Jason winces and glares at Colin. “You’re an asshole.”
Colin just grins at him. “I’m Gotham born and bred. Just because the sisters didn’t raise me to have a potty mouth doesn’t mean I don’t know how to call it like I see it.”
“Fuck you.” There’s no heat behind it and Jason leans heavily against the wall. His hand will start hurting even more once the adrenaline wears off. Glancing around, he notices the dock is mostly empty. “You guys haul everything inside?”
Colin nods. “While you were arguing with the guy on the phone, yeah. I think everything is where it needs to be. And all the frozen stuff is in the freezer. Adam pointed out which boxes those were. He’s a nice guy.”
“Yeah, he’s not too bad.” Jason sighs and nods at the receiving door. “Close that, will ya?”
The door closes with a loud clang that jars his ears. Someone needs some practice there.
“What’re you going to do, boss?” Colin asks. “You need to get that looked at.”
Jason glares at his hand. Of fucking course it’s his dominant one. “I’m gonna get some damned ice is what I’m gonna do right now. You can make a sign saying my phone is out of order and to call the bar for anything that’s not an emergency.”
“And if it is?”
“That’s what 911 is for. Maybe someone will even answer.”
Jason hates going to the Free Clinic, but he’s got no other choice, not with how badly he fucked up his hand. While he’s got some basic health insurance, it won’t do him any good if he shows up at a hospital emergency room or even an urgent care clinic.
Besides, him and Doc Leslie go back a long ways.
The clinic is packed when he gets there, so he duly writes his name and complaint on the sign-in sheet and finds a place to lean against the wall. He’s got an ice pack wrapped around his hand that’s still doing its job even after a six-block hike across the Bowery and into Crime Alley.
Home sweet home.
Names are called at what feels like a snail’s pace, but Jason doesn’t move, even after a seat opens up. Call it penance, call it pride, but he’ll damn well stand here until his name is called because with the way his luck has been, someone who really needs that chair will come in the moment he sits down.
It’s over an hour and half later when his name is called by a tired sounding and even more tired looking nurse. He follows him back, stands on the scale when prompted for his weight and rattles off his height when asked. He hasn’t been here for about five years so who knows if they still have a record on him. The nurse, his name is Chris according to his badge, probably assumes Jason is nothing but trouble considering the condition his hand is in.
Still, back in the patient room, Chris makes the appropriate sounds when he asks what happened.
“Lost a fight with a concrete wall,” Jason replies with a straight face.
“Impressive considering those don’t hit back.”
It’s not Nurse Chris but Doc Leslie herself who makes that pronouncement. The old doctor has a few more wrinkles than Jason remembers but still has that wry twinkle in her eye that tells anyone with half a brain cell to be careful. She may not ever strike back physically but she’ll lash you with her tongue, which is almost as bad.
“What can I say? I’m an idiot.” Jason shrugs self-deprecatingly.
“An idiot who has still managed to do pretty well for himself.” Leslie slips on a pair of rubber gloves and gently takes hold of his hand. “Chris, bring in the portable X-ray. I’ll clean him up.”
The nurse bobs a quick nod and disappears.
Jason winces at a particularly hard press of the doctor’s finger. “Been keeping tabs on me?”
“Mike was a dear friend of mine. Of course, I’m keeping an eye on you when I can spare it.” Leslie arches a brow. “Which reminds me, we’ll need to update your tetanus booster. Lord only knows what was on that wall you lost to.”
Goddammit. That’s gonna hurt. “Sheesh, doc. Way to give me the VIP treatment.”
“If it’s any consolation, I don’t even give Bruce Wayne VIP treatment.”
Jason gapes because where the hell is this coming from? “Huh?”
Leslie gives him a shrewd look as she starts squirting saline over the scrapes on his knuckles. “I read a rather interesting article a few months ago. About Tim Drake-Wayne coming out as bisexual and in a happy relationship with another man.”
Oh. Jason sighs and shifts uncomfortably. “You know the Waynes, then?”
The doctor sniffs loudly and he swears she all but rolls her eyes at him. “This is the Thomas and Martha Wayne Free Clinic, Jason. I’ve been Bruce’s doctor since he was born. His family see me too.”
That’s something Jason didn’t know but how often does it come up that Tim has a doctor that probably makes house calls? “I suppose that means you’re tellin’ Bruce about this?”
“Don’t be silly. Patient-doctor confidentiality isn’t just a saying. There are some serious laws about it too. If Bruce wants to know how you were dumb enough to break your hand, he’ll have to ask you. Or Tim because I assume he’ll find out sooner than later.”
Tim. Tim who is probably trying to call him about dinner and getting nothing but voicemail. Does voicemail even work if the phone is completely busted?
“I lost my temper earlier,” Jason admits, eyes on Leslie’s now gentle motions as she cleans his hand. “My best friends are getting married tomorrow and I’m hosting the reception after the wedding...” He tells her about the shit week he’s had, how nothing has been going right, all the crap that comes with being a landlord, and the lifesaver that is Colin. “That delivery– I just couldn’t deal with it. I’ve been working so hard and it was just...”
Leslie rests a hand on his shoulder. “The icing on the cake. We all have days like that, but it does sound like you’ve been through the wringer this week.”
“And now I’ll be standing at Roy’s side tomorrow with a cast on my hand.” Tim will have a field day taking pictures with him like that. Christ, what’s he going to think about all this? He’s been trying to avoid those thoughts since he got here, but the wall finally comes tumbling down. Jason closes his eyes, already imagining the disappointed look Tim will undoubtedly give him when he sees the cast.
“Better than lashing out at the delivery man and spending the night in jail.”
He cracks open his eyes again, grateful for the distraction. He’ll deal with that later. “I try really hard not to shoot the messenger.”
“I hope you mean that figuratively.”
Jason just grins at her.
It takes another two hours before he’s finally released. The break is at least clean, so surgery is off the table. Stress Jason didn’t even realize he felt lifts from his shoulders at that bit of news. The local anesthetic Doc Leslie used while setting the broken bones is wearing off and he’s starting to really feel the pain. He has a prescription for a painkiller in his pocket, but he doubts he’ll fill it.
His dumb ass deserves the pain.
Besides, it’ll help keep him sharp on the way home. The Free Clinic is neutral territory by general consensus of the various gangs that rule these streets, but this is still Crime Alley. His cast marks him as weak even if his height, muscle, and the steely glint in his eyes says otherwise.
The walk home is long and hot, the heatwave that’s settled over Gotham trapping the air and preventing it from going anywhere. It’s humid on top of that, so his sweat does nothing to cool him off. The sun is setting as he walks down the uneven sidewalk back into the Bowery and the shadows grow longer before they encompass everything.
What the hell is he going to tell Tim? And Roy and Kori for that matter. He’s all but crippled himself for the next eight or so weeks. Yeah, he’ll adjust and figure things out, but not in time for the reception tomorrow. There’s so much to do in the morning and fuck, he’ll need to convince Tim to drive him to the store tonight. Life will be so much easier if he just keeps going and gets his shit done. He can crash hard later.
As he approaches his building, he spots a familiar car parked out front. Well, that’s one question answered. Tim is here already.
His gut tells him to check the bar, so he enters through the back and into the kitchen. The lights are off, but the door to the main part of the bar is propped open where the lights are on and the dull rhythmic thunk, thunk tells Jason that Tim is playing darts a little too closely to the dartboard.
Time to face the music.
The darts stop when he enters the room and Tim’s icy gaze falls on him, taking in the simple cast that extends from his fingers to past his wrist and up part of his forearm. The glacial expression melts slightly.
“That bad, huh?”
“Yeah. How’d you find out?”
“Colin.” Tim sighs and gestures over to the bar. “I think you need something to drink.”
“Just water.” Jason sits down while Tim ducks under and pours them both a glass.
The silence is deafening before Tim speaks up. “I tried texting and calling you several times about dinner,” he explains, leaning against the freshly varnished counter. “Then I called the bar and got no answer. I wasn’t sure what to think, but when I got here, I found the pieces of your phone in the office. Decided it was time to pull up Colin’s file to get his number. I was pretty sure he didn’t kill you, but you never know. This is Gotham.”
Jason chuckles weakly at the attempted humor. “Yup, it sure is.”
Tim pauses to take a sip and continues. “He didn’t seem surprised to hear from me at all. Told me what happened, where you were, and asked me to let him know when you made it home.” At that, he takes out his ever-present phone and sends a quick text message. It chimes back a reply a moment later, then another. Tim texts another message and puts the phone back in his pocket.
“I seriously don’t deserve either of you.”
“No, you don’t. But we’re caught in your gravitational pull and I, for one, have no plans to leave it any time soon.” Tim winks. “To make a long story short, I found your list and have spent the last two hours hunting everything down. I even stopped by the manor to raid the wine cellar because Alfred always keeps a few cases of champagne on hand.”
Jason gapes. “Tim, you didn’t have to do that. I was gonna figure it out.”
“Now you don’t have to.” Tim shrugs and takes another sip of water. “When will you learn to ask for help, Jay? You don’t have to go it alone. You have employees, you have friends, you have me. Let us help you.”
“You know it’s hard for me…” Jason tries to say, the excuse falling easily from his tongue, but Tim cuts him off.
“Bullshit. I’ve seen you swallow your pride before. You did it last night when you asked for money to give to Colin.”
“Swallowed yours too.” Jason smirks and enjoys the faint hint of red on Tim’s cheeks, but could also be his anger appearing through the cracks in his façade.
That’s when it hits him. Tim is letting him see him like this. The anger, the frustration. Letting him see the man beneath the cool and collected exterior that he presents each and every time he walks out that door.
Vicki’s article comes to mind and one of the things Tim had said. “Here, I’m just Tim. I don’t have to be anyone else but me.”
Jason slumps as best he can on a barstool. “I’m sorry, Tim. This week I just…” he sighs, trying to find the right words. “I thought I had it all under control, that I had at least a little breathing space thanks to Colin. I didn’t realize until it was too late just how close to the surface everything really was.”
A small smile flashes over Tim’s face. “From what Colin said, your meltdown was pretty spectacular.”
“I am so fuckin’ embarrassed he had to see that.” Christ, it wouldn’t surprise him if the kid hands in his resignation after this. Who wants to work for a fuck-up like him?
“It shows him that you’re human too. Besides, he was nothing but concerned for you when I spoke to him and his text earlier is more of the same. He wants to know if you need another set of hands to help out tomorrow. I told him you’re all set.”
Jason sits up at that, confused. “I am?”
“I told Alfred what happened. He’s coming over tomorrow after rush hour to lend a hand.” Tim huffs one of his quiet laughs. “Said he doesn’t trust me with the pastry for your Beef Wellington.”
“That makes two of us.”
Tim reaches across and swats him. “I’m not impossible, just easily distracted.”
“Are you sure you don’t need my help with that?”
Jason grimaces and gives his tie a critical look. Even with two working hands, he can barely manage a functional knot and he’s fairly sure Roy won’t be able to do any better if he has to help him. “Fine,” he says, caving in.
Tim gestures to his shirt. “Put that on. I need the collar.”
Putting on a button-down dress shirt is a challenge with his new cast, but Jason powers on through it, the dull ache and occasional throb from his broken hand not stopping him. His fuck up, his responsibility.
Still, he should probably take a couple of painkillers. Not the prescription ones Tim went and got for him last night, those are a little too strong and Jason wants his wits about him today.
Satisfied, Tim quickly buttons the shirt and pops the collar, looping the long strip of striped fabric around his neck. “There, aren’t you glad I talked you into this suit?”
It’s the dark gray pinstripe that Jason loves to gripe about, even if he privately admits it makes him look fucking hot. “I like it better when you talk me out of it.”
“Later.” Tim brushes his lips against Jason’s briefly. “Even if it’s for a good cause, I doubt Kori wants me to be late today.”
No, probably not. The wedding is in a few hours and they’re making their own preparations before Tim has to head out and play with his camera.
“Funny how the gals rate a photographer for all their pre-wedding shit while Roy and I can barely take a selfie between the two of us.”
Tim laughs, deftly tying a knot and checks to make sure the tie lays properly before he does something with one of the ends, loosening it so that Jason can put it on later with minimum hassle. “It still amuses me that you can’t say selfie without grimacing.”
“It’s a silly word!”
“It’s in the Oxford English Dictionary now, so you’ve got no grounds to stand on.”
Jason grumbles over that, but lets it slide.
Tim removes the tie and hangs it from a hook in Jason’s wardrobe. “If you really want a private photoshoot, I can make that happen.” The saucy smirk lives up to the absolute devilry in his eyes. “I’d love to see you in black and white.”
“And just how much clothing would I be wearing?” Jason can’t help but be intrigued. It isn’t often Tim lets his artistic side come out to play.
His boyfriend gives him an assessing look, taking in the dark red shirt and the black boxer-briefs that were the only thing Jason had put on after his shower. “Probably less than that.”
“Definitely. Although I think I can make an exception for your leather jacket. As long as that’s the only thing you’re wearing.”
Before Jason can give his opinion, there’s a knock at the door.
“You guys better be decent!” Roy calls out, using his key to let himself in. He makes a show of shielding his eyes.
“What if we’re not?” Jason asks, winking at Tim.
“Can I watch? I kinda need a distraction right now.”
Tim laughs and presses a quick kiss to the corner of Jason’s mouth. “I think that’s my cue to leave.”
Roy enters and closes the door behind him, a small duffle and a plastic dry-cleaning bag slung over his shoulder. “Nah, you’re fine, Tim. I’m early. For once.”
Picking up his own bag from the couch, Tim glances at his watch. “Just gives me a chance to stop and get a smoothie. Jason’s been nagging me to cut back on the coffee.”
“You slept ten hours last night, you don’t need any more coffee today,” Jason comments as he gets lost in his shirt, trying to take it off so he can put on his undershirt. He needs it on a hot day like this. No one wants to see sweaty armpits in the pictures later.
“Says you.” Tim winks and rests a hand on the door. “Roy, you may need to help him with that.”
“Since when has Jason had a problem taking his clothes off?”
“Ask him to give you the finger with his right hand and you’ll see.” With that, Tim slips out the door, locking it behind him.
Roy sets his bags down on the couch and gives Jason a curious look. “Does this have to do with why you’re not answering your phone?”
Jason sighs and manages to free his left arm from the shirt. Buttons are a bitch with only one hand. “I may have done something incredibly stupid yesterday after we talked.”
“What?” Roy asks warily, approaching the far end of the loft and the designated bedroom area.
He holds up his right hand, the still unbuttoned sleeve a stark contrast to the white cast.
“Jesus, shit. What the hell did you do, Jaybird?” Roy rushes over and almost delicately helps him out of the shirt.
“Lost a fight with the wall down in the loading dock.”
“Seriously? Who else was involved?”
Roy lets out a long, aggravated sigh. “Okay, what actually happened?”
Jason holds out the hanger for his shirt. “A shit day on top of a shit week.”
He tells his best friend everything, from the barrage of calls from his tenants to the life saver Colin has been. They end up in the kitchen, drinking some weird pink fruit juice Tim loves on hot days and keeps stocked in the fridge almost as religiously as he does his coffee. The icy cold drink is refreshing on a sweltering afternoon like today and not for the first time, Jason wonders if he needs to check the seals around the windows again or if it just really sucks to be him living on the top floor because heat rises.
“Man, why didn’t you call me?” Roy says when Jason finishes. “I wasn’t really doing all that much this week. Just tinkering around on shit. I would have been here in a heartbeat.”
“I said I’d handle the reception so you guys wouldn’t have to deal with it.”
Roy shakes his head. “No, this is just your dumbass way of biting off more than you can chew and not wanting to admit it. Again. You have friends, Jay. How many times do Kori and I have to drill it into your thick skull that you are not a burden? Whenever crap happens to me, you and Kori fight over who’s dragging my ass out of it. What makes you think we won’t do the same for you? Even when we’re neck deep in wedding shit?”
“That’s exactly why I didn’t tell you,” Jason tries, but Roy cuts him off, green eyes flashing.
“Bull. Shit. You just didn’t want to admit you were up shit creek without a paddle, let alone a goddamned life-vest.” Roy sets down his glass and places both hands on Jason’s shoulders, gripping him firmly so he can’t get away easily. “You keep doing this. I’m surprised Tim hasn’t called you out on it already.”
Jason hangs his head. “He ripped me a new one last night when I got home and said pretty much the same thing you just did.”
Roy nods and presses their foreheads together. “If you won’t listen to me, at least listen to him. Tim is the best goddamned thing to ever walk into your bar. Anyone who can see through your cocky asshole routine is worth keeping around.”
“I still don’t know what the hell he sees in me. A guy like him…”
“Tim sees the same things Kori and I do. That Steph does.” Roy draws away just enough to press their mouths together briefly. The taste of Roy’s lips is one that Jason hasn’t even realized he’d missed until now. More than that though, Roy slides his arms down to haul him into one of his bone-crushing hugs. The physical closeness settles and grounds him; similar to how Tim’s touch does, but this one carries with it years of familiarity.
Jason can’t help it. He chases after Roy’s mouth, stealing one more kiss before sighing hard into the redhead’s neck. “Sorry,” he says, not feeling particularly apologetic in the slightest. This is Roy, the one person in the whole goddamned world who knows him from the inside out.
Roy huffs a laugh into Jason’s hair. “Doesn’t bother me at all and you know Kori doesn’t mind either. Tim, on the other hand… You guys ever have that little talk?”
Tim. Fuck. Cue the guilt.
“Yeah, we did.” Jason breathes deep, momentarily losing himself in a memory where his teeth had been buried in this very spot while plowing Roy’s ass so hard they’d both had trouble walking afterward. But that was then… this is now. He sighs and pulls away, Roy releasing him easily. “Tim says he’s very curious about watching us, but he’s not sure how he feels about sharing me, even with you guys. At least right now.”
“Considering where he comes from, I’m surprised you even got that much out of him.”
“Me too.” Jason frowns and runs a hand through his freshly washed hair. “I suppose this is something I should probably tell him about.”
“Completely up to you.” Roy shrugs. “You needed it and I’m not about to tell everyone I just kissed my best friend on my wedding day. Maybe Kori later on tonight…” He grins wide. “That’ll make her all hot and bothered. She misses you too.”
Jason misses their physical closeness more than he wants to admit. “Don’t get me wrong, what Tim and I have is fucking awesome and he makes me happier than I ever thought possible. But sometimes…”
“Sometimes you get that little itch and he isn’t quite able to scratch it.” Roy nods sagely. “I get it. For me and Kori, you’re that little itch. Sometimes we want to be three and not just anyone will do.”
“Yeah, that sounds about right.” He sighs again. What a mess. This is definitely something he’ll have to talk with Tim about later. Okay, maybe tomorrow after they’re recovered from their hangovers because he plans on drinking this side of too much later. “Well, enough about my fucking problems. You’re about to marry the most beautiful woman in the world and you look like something a dog would roll around in. Get your ass in the shower and then I’ll make you pretty.”
“Can you even hold eyeliner in your left hand?”
“I practiced on Tim earlier.”
“Did he end up with raccoon eyes?”
“Only the first two times.”
When they arrive at the municipal courthouse, Kori, Tim, and Donna are already there.
“What the hell did you do, Jason?” Kori asks, rushing over to him in a flurry of form-fitting white to gently take hold of his broken hand. Trust the former model not to wear a traditional wedding dress. It’s short, strapless, and looks absolutely incredible against her tanned skin. Her flaming red hair is piled high on her head in some artfully disheveled mess of curls and god only knows how many hairpins.
Jason side-eyes Tim, who just winks at him as he takes a picture. “I was a stupid idiot,” he tells his other best friend.
Kori wraps her arms around his neck, and he has no choice but to return the embrace. “So I heard. Why didn’t you call us?”
“Pretty sure my first answer is still the right one here.”
A smack upside the back of his head has him blinking hard.
“I will not repeat the lecture I’m sure Tim and Roy have already given you,” Kori states, her tone accepting no excuses. “But I will say this… The next time your damned pride gets in the way, I will break your other hand myself.”
Thankfully, Roy chooses that moment to step in. “Babe, don’t you think that’s a little drastic?”
“Drastic is putting him in traction.” Kori tosses her head as she releases Jason and turns her attention to her fiancé. “I didn’t think this shade of green would suit you, but I’m glad to be wrong.” She runs her hands over the smooth lapels of Roy’s tailored suit, a gift from Tim that Jason didn’t hear about until they were getting dressed. It’s not a traditional color and the black shirt makes it stand out even more. No boring black suits allowed here. “You clean up very nicely, dear.”
“I can’t have you marrying a slob.” Roy leans in and kisses her lightly on the cheek. “You look gorgeous.”
Kori beams. “Thank you. It took us forever to do my hair.”
Tim sidles up beside Jason. “No kidding,” he says in a low voice. “I know she has a lot of hair, but I didn’t think it would take that long.”
There’s a faint twinge of guilt from his earlier actions that Jason shoves aside. He’ll come clean later. “It’s all about the bride today. The rest of us just have to deal.”
“I’ve dealt with some bridezillas in my time,” Tim replies. “Kori isn’t anywhere on that level. If it weren’t for the dress, I’d say she was getting ready for a party.”
“Well, by the time we’re done here, Steph should have all her shit done and we can just have some fun tonight.”
“She at the bar already?”
“Yeah. Got there just as Roy and I were headin’ out. For some reason, Cass is with her.” That had surprised Jason, but he was in a rush to get out the door, so he didn’t question it.
Tim nods and smiles as Donna joins them. Roy and Kori are still lost in their own little world. “I’m going out on a limb here and saying that’s probably Alfred’s doing. Steph and Cass get along pretty well, I think?”
“Two peas in a pod.” Jason holds out an arm and gives Donna a one-sided hug. “Long time, no see. How you doin’?”
“Hey, Jason. I’m well and you?” the black-haired photographer replies with an easy smile. Her fitted red dress is stunning, not that he’d ever expect anything less from Kori’s oldest friend.
As far as Jason is concerned, Donna Troy is the second most beautiful woman in the world, right behind Kori and he is not ashamed to admit he’s had a thing for her for years. Sadly, nothing ever came of it besides a few half-drunken kisses back when Kori was still walking the runways, mostly because of distance since Donna lives in New York and long distance relationships are a bitch.
“Can’t complain.” Jason waves his cast and Donna just shakes her head.
“I heard about that. Lost a fight with a wall, huh?”
“Hey, it hits back really hard.”
It’s tempting to ask if Donna is still with that douchebag artist, but he decides it’s none of his business, especially not when he has Tim standing by his side.
Jason shrugs, already prepared for all the shit everyone will give him later. “How’s it feel to be on the other side of the camera today?”
Donna’s smile turns into a large grin. “I’m having a blast. Especially once I discovered just how good of a photographer Tim is. He’s really missed his calling.”
Tim’s ears pink ever so slightly under the praise. “It’s just a hobby.”
“Hobby, my ass. I’d welcome you in my studio any day of the week.” Donna glances at her phone. “I think we need to get moving. The judge will be ready for us in a few minutes.”
Butterflies flutter in Jason’s stomach. Shit. This is it. This is really it. His best friends are about to get fucking married. The next big chapter in their lives is about to start and… He’s not part of it. Well, he is because he’s here with them, but that isn’t the same. There has never been a doubt in his mind that if he ever ties the knot, they’ll be right there with him. Standing with him. Supporting him. Helping him through the complete and utter wreck he’ll undoubtedly be.
Slim fingers tangle with his own and Jason stops panicking as Tim’s touch brings him back to the present, settling him.
Looking into those pale blue eyes, he wonders exactly when it was that Tim Drake managed to worm his way into his heart. Because he’ll be fucked if he ever decides to leave.
The door to the courtroom opens and a kindly yet stern looking man stands there in his official robes. He smiles as he takes in Roy and Kori. “Hello, everyone! I have to admit this is always the best part of my day. Come in and let’s get started.”
Jason is in a bit of a daze as he follows everyone inside. Distantly, he sees Tim having a few words with the judge and gesturing to his camera. Some officiants allow photography in the courtroom while others don’t. This is apparently a place that does, so Tim wanders off to the side.
A nudge from Roy snaps Jason out it completely. “Ready, Jaybird?”
The nervous grin on his face tells him he’s not the only one lost in his head. “You’re the one gettin’ married, not me. If you pass out, I’ll catch ya.”
Kori laughs and presses in close to place a gentle kiss on his cheek. “You will always be part of our lives, Jason,” she says, low so that only he can hear it. “No matter what happens, we will always be there for each other.”
Those are not tears welling up in his eyes. They’re not because he didn’t think to buy the waterproof eyeliner and he’s not going to wander around looking like a raccoon for the rest of the afternoon.
Roy envelopes them both in one of his big hugs. “Next wedding we go to better be yours, Jay.”
Jason looks up and catches Tim’s eye. Or tries to because there’s a camera in the way as he captures this sappy moment between the three best friends.
They’re not ready for that, not yet. But standing here at Roy’s side while Donna does the same with Kori, yeah, he can totally imagine what the future will bring.
And fuck, it’s beautiful.
The judge beams, his fatherly smile infectious. It’s clear he really does enjoy weddings, which, considering all the shit he has to see day in, day out, makes perfect sense. “Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today…”
Sooooo... remember how I said last time that this is the last chapter? I lied. My new beta for this fic talked me into a fifth chapter, which is already complete and will be posted next week.
The headache pounding behind his eyes is the first thing Jason becomes aware of when he wakes up the following morning. The foul taste in his mouth is the second.
He’s fairly sure he didn’t drink as much water as he should have last night. No one to blame for this but himself. Rolling over, he blearily cracks open an eye to see what time it is. A bottle of Gatorade and two pain pills block his view of the clock on his nightstand.
Did he put those there last night? Jason frowns, trying to remember. Much of it is a blur, but he does have a very distinct memory of Kori, Donna, and Stephanie all stomping away on his relacquered bar singing along to ABBA’s Dancing Queen. The view from down below was fucking fantastic. All that skin and those short little skirts… yeah, he wasn’t the only one appreciating the show. He’s pretty sure Tam got up there at one point to get jiggy with it because he remembers a wickedly sharp stiletto in his face and she’s the only one who wears shoes that’ll poke your eye out.
He hopes Tim got pictures of that. The little show, not him getting kicked in the face. Why did he let Steph be in charge of the music again? The medley of horribly cheesy reception songs rewinds itself through his parched brain, accompanied by even worse dances, and he prays he didn't do the Macarena because that is unfortunately something he knows how to do.
Slowly, he sits up, waiting for an urge to puke that doesn’t come. Thank fuck.
He scoops up the pills and realizes he either has to put them in his mouth or back on the nightstand because of his cast. A cast that is now garishly purple.
Okay, that he remembers. Kori stopped by a store after the wedding and bought a purple sharpie. She and Steph spent the first hour of the reception taking turns coloring every single bit of white to their favorite color, going over the plaster several times to make it dark enough. He let them because he’s a sap who can’t tell either of them no.
He fumbles with the cap on the cool bottle and damn, that shit shouldn’t feel as good as it does going down his throat. Still, he drinks carefully because it won’t feel all that great coming back up to say hi a second time. The pills go down easily, and Jason caps the bottle, brain cells starting to fire as it comes back online.
Where’s Tim? He’s pretty sure the man passed out beside him earlier this morning after they stumbled their way upstairs and there’s a Tim-shaped dent on the bed...
Jason sniffs and sure enough, he smells coffee in the air.
Mystery solved. Mysteries, really, since it has to be Tim who left the drink and meds for him.
That doesn’t answer where his boyfriend is, but the call of nature is making itself known so it’ll have to wait. Tim’s probably passed out on the sofa or something.
Relieving himself feels fucking amazing and the shower is too tempting to resist once he’s done, even if wrapping his cast in plastic is a bitch and a half. The headache is still there when he steps out and towels off, but it’s retreated to tolerable levels.
The loft has grown annoyingly warmer when Jason leaves the bathroom. He doesn’t remember last summer being this bad and makes checking those window seals his priority today after cleaning up the bar from the remains of the party.
Putting on a fresh pair of underwear, he grabs the Gatorade and treks across the loft.
Tim is in the kitchen making pancakes.
“Don’t you need adult supervision for that?” Jason rasps. He frowns and drinks more.
“Ha ha.” Tim deftly flips a pancake and turns to face Jason, crossing his arms loosely over the t-shirt he must have swiped from Jason’s dresser. As usual, it doesn’t look like he’s wearing anything beneath it. “I’ll have you know I make fantastic pancakes.”
“Yup.” Tim returns to the griddle and flips a perfectly fluffy and golden pancake onto a plate that already has a stack started. “I figured these would go down easy too, at least if you don’t drown them in butter and syrup.”
“I think I can handle one.” Jason pads around the counter to swipe a pancake from the plate while Tim starts another. “Are you feeling alright?” he asks, noticing that Tim seems a little too chipper after a long night of hard partying.
“I didn’t drink anywhere near as much as you did.” Tim gives him a concerned look. “How are you feeling? I didn’t hear any vomiting...”
Jason shrugs. “I’ve felt worse. Don’t remember too much after the girls got their Coyote Ugly on.”
“Wow, a pop culture reference, I’m impressed.”
“I’m more concerned about my bar. Were they wearing shoes?”
Shit. He’ll find some way to make Steph buff out any scuffs, but any dings or dents will have to wait until next time he decides to poison his lungs.
While he picks at his pancake, Tim finishes the rest of them and gets the electric kettle going without burning anything. All jokes aside, Jason knows Tim won’t burn down the building, but it’s like he said last night — he’s easily distracted which is why his phone is plugged in over on the far side of the counter where he can’t get to it without actively leaving the kitchen.
Ginger tea is the order of the day and Jason soon finds himself sipping a cup of it, watching as Tim cleans up, putting his ingredients away and washing dishes. He doesn’t clean as he goes, which is rather annoying, but the job still gets done, so there’s nothing to bitch at. Probably has to do with the whole distraction thing.
“Is it warm in here to you?” Jason asks, debating about whether he wants to try a second pancake.
“You’re asking the guy who just stood in front of a hot stove for the last twenty minutes?” Tim laughs and swats him with the dishtowel.
“That’s a yes, then.” Jason looks over at the windows lining the length of the loft. He loves the natural light but if that’s where his heat problem is, well...
“I already checked,” Tim replies. “There’s no obvious draft, but it’s definitely warmer over there. Have the windows ever been replaced?”
Jason scowls, the thought of another building expense after the whole water heater nightmare enough to make him want to spend some quality time with his punching bag. Which, thanks to his fucking hand, is no longer a viable outlet for the next couple months at least.
Fuck his life.
“I’ll take that as a no or not for a really long time.” Tim finishes the last of the juice he’s been sipping since Jason dragged his ass out of bed. “Blackout curtains might help. I remember the packaging on some of mine saying something about creating a heat barrier?”
Jason accepts the lifeline for what it is and not a reminder that they have vastly different balances in their checking accounts. “Might be worth looking into,” he says slowly. Curtains he can afford. New windows? Fuck no.
Tim washes his glass and sets it aside. “I’ve already been down to the bar and taken out the last of the trash. Steph and I managed to get all the dishes into the dishwasher last night, so all that really needs to be done is unload that and finish taking down the decorations. Probably vacuum too.”
That’s not as bad as Jason thought it would be. “You were supposed to be enjoying the party, not working your ass off.”
A distinct memory pops up of Tim running around with a serving tray and mixing drinks. What the fuck?
“Who else was going to run the kitchen?” Tim shrugs and the shoulder of his shirt slips down to reveal more skin. “Besides, I know how Alfred arranges things. You needed to do best man things, like drink all of Roy’s toasts for him.”
Jason opens his mouth to protest, then promptly shuts it.
“I think you were the drunkest person there last night,” Tim continues, a faint smile curling at his lips. “You’re really handsy, aren’t you?”
“Christ, did I grope someone I shouldn’t have?” Jason has two modes when drunk — the life of the party or belligerent. Depends on his mood when the first shots are going down.
“Just me. I got more than a few invites to take a breather with you in the office.” The smile grows.
“You could take a breather with me over on the sofa. Sounds like you’ve been busy making life easier for me.”
“You’re the one who jokes that I need more exercise.”
This is true. Jason makes sure to slowly drag his eyes up and down Tim’s form, taking in everything from his bare legs to the collarbones peeking out from the v-neck of the shirt. Tim had to have stripped down after returning from the bar, which he tends to do when it’s just them, even in the winter. The occasionally prissy businessman is a closet cuddler.
“I can give you a workout that’s guaranteed to make us both happy.”
“Are you up for that?”
Jason sets his mug down on the counter. His hands need to be all over Tim now. All that skin needs to be thoroughly explored, even though he can map every inch of Tim’s body in his sleep. “If I wasn’t, I wouldn’t have offered.”
It’s hard to say which of them reaches the sofa first, but as Jason sinks into the cushions and drags Tim onto his lap, he can’t quite care who the winner or loser is. How can he be a loser when he has this gorgeous man all to himself?
Tim easily straddles his thighs and Jason rakes his hands up the back of Tim’s legs, proving yet again that the man has ditched his boxers. Their mouths meet hungrily, and Jason groans as he licks at the sweetness left by that ridiculous juice and an underlying taste that’s so uniquely Tim. It calms and settles that rawness left over from the wedding and the exchange between him and Roy —
Fuck. Fuck, fuck, fuck.
He knew there was something he’d forgotten.
“What’s wrong?” Tim asks, drawing back as he picks up on Jason’s distraction.
“I... I fucked up yesterday.” Jason sighs and looks away. Christ, this is going to suck but he needs to man up and do it.
Deep breath. He can do this. He’s not that kind of asshole. “After you left, I told Roy about what’s been going on around here. How this happened.” Jason raises the casted hand. “And after he shredded my ass like you did, we...”
Tim stills, closing himself under that layer of ice like he always does when he wants to put distance between what’s going on and his emotions. “You what?”
“We kissed.” Jason hangs his head. “The first one was just to calm me down but the second one? That was all me.”
The silence weighs down heavily, the only noise coming from the faint hum as the central air finally kicks on and tries to banish the overly heated air.
“Have you ever... I mean, since we got together?” Tim asks quietly, not looking at him.
Jason can’t get a read on him, not cocooned like he is under that glacier. “No. Never. You know that.”
“Do I?” Tim’s icy glare freezes him in place.
“Yeah, you do. Because while I’m a lot of things, I’m not a fucking cheater. You know the history I have with Roy and Kori. You know that they still want me in their bed sometimes, but only if you’re okay with it. Which you’re not, you’ve made that clear, at least for now.”
“You’re not helping your case.”
Jason thinks it’s rather telling that Tim is still sitting on his lap but doesn’t push it. “Tim, I’m sorry it happened. I just... I needed something and Roy was there to give it to me. Just like he’s always been.”
Tim stiffens. “Am I not good enough then?”
“Fuck. No.” Jason grabs hold of Tim’s hips to hold him in place and ignores the twinge in his broken hand as it moves in a way it shouldn’t. “Don’t you ever think that. Christ, you are so goddamned perfect. I’m the one who fucked up here, Tim. Not you. I’m not making excuses. I’m owning up to what I did and I’m fucking sorry it happened. If you decide you want to walk outta here, I get it.”
It’s the last thing in the world he wants to have happen, and it’ll utterly destroy him if it does, but that decision is in Tim’s hands. Not his.
Under his hands, he feels Tim shudder, a ripple in muscles taut as coils, ready to spring away. “You know I’m not walking away,” he breathes, voice pained and tight. “But how can I ever compare to what you have with Roy? With Kori? I’m not blind. I saw the way you were looking at them yesterday. The way they were looking at you. If marriage between three people were legal, they’d ask you to join them in a heartbeat.”
Jesus, this is spiraling fast and not in the way he expected it to. “Tim. Listen to me. That’s never gonna happen. Yes, I love the two of them. I’d shoot first and ask why later if either of them said the word. But you know what? The way I love them isn’t the same as how I love you. Not anymore. I’ve kinda known that for a while now, but it didn’t really sink in until we were all at the courthouse yesterday. If anything, what you saw was the three of us saying goodbye to that part of our lives so we could move on with the next. And guess what? I really want you to be part of that.”
“But you still want to fuck them sometimes,” Tim replies flatly.
“I’ve been in a three-way relationship with them on and off for years. I highly doubt that urge will ever go away completely. But if you decide you’re not willing to share, to come with and watch, then it’s not happening. We can always get creative with a dildo when I get that itch for more.”
This really isn’t going how he expected it to. Tim’s still frigid, yeah, but he’s starting to melt. Jason can see it. Which probably means the yelling is about to start.
Sure enough, Tim does and it’s explosive. “I don’t want you to have to settle for some fucking toy! I want you to be happy and Jesus fucking Christ, why do you have to be so much more experienced than me? I feel like some whiny virgin who’s afraid to even hold hands.”
“You’re hardly a virgin. I should know. I’ve checked many times.”
That earns him a smack. “You’re missing my point.”
“No, I’m not. I love being your first for so many things. But I will never pressure you into doing something you’re not willing to do or try. If that means never sleeping with Roy and Kori again, then so be it. There’s a hell of a lot of other things we can try out that only need the two of us.”
Tim makes a frustrated noise and squirms under Jason’s hands. He could be off his lap in a flash if he wants to and they both know it. “I don’t know what I want, okay? Watching you put on a show just for me drives me fucking wild. The thought of sharing you with someone else scares me because what if afterward you decide you enjoy that so much more than what we do? Then where does that leave me? Alone and fucking my goddamned hand.”
The truth comes out. And it’s not quite what Jason is expecting. He starts rubbing his good hand over Tim’s hip in an attempt to soothe him. “Since when are you the insecure one in this relationship?” he asks quietly, trying hard not to rile Tim up again.
Although the flush on his cheeks is stupidly cute.
“Since I woke up beside you one morning and discovered I wanted to do that every single day.”
Jason grabs hold of Tim’s hand and raises it to his lips, kissing the back of his knuckles. It’s a sappy gesture, but hey, he’s the one who reads classical romance novels for fun. “I really am sorry for what I did. But I’m also kinda glad it happened because if it didn’t, I don’t think we would have had this little talk.”
“Yeah,” Tim agrees, then bonelessly falls forward across Jason’s chest, burying his face in his neck. “I’m still pissed you kissed Roy though.”
He can deal with Tim being pissed off at him. It happens. There are days he wants to wring his neck too. “Do you forgive me?”
Tim sighs and sits up, wrapping his arms around Jason’s neck. “I do. Just… Give me a little more time to wrap my head around you, Roy, and Kori, okay? It is just them, right?”
Jason nods. “Yeah, it’s just them. It’s only ever been them. Maybe we can start small when you’re ready to try. There’s plenty of porn out there we can watch together.”
“I’ve never really thought of myself as sheltered until I met you,” Tim says, looking him right in the eye. “You’re constantly pushing me out of my little bubble.”
“Life isn’t meant to be lived in a hamster-ball, rich boy. Gotta have some fun.”
“Is that so?” Tim’s gaze drops to Jason’s chest and the two rings piercing his nipples. Jason changed them out before he and Roy left yesterday, so the bead is now a pale blue that almost matches Tim’s eyes. If that isn’t romantic, then he doesn’t know what is.
“Yup.” Jason clasps Tim by the back of his thighs again and waits. They’re either going to fuck or they’re going to cuddle now that all the heavy emotional shit is out of the way. He knows which one he wants, but the ball is in Tim’s court for him to decide.
To his surprise, Tim takes his good hand and drags it further back over the curve of his ass. “I woke up earlier thinking about what I saw yesterday and came to a rather similar conclusion.”
Jason is a little confused, but hey, he’s got a hand on Tim’s ass, so that’s better than the original direction this was heading. “Did you?”
It’s at that point Jason realizes there’s something between the firm little cheeks and he gapes when he figures out what it is. “Are you wearing a plug?”
Tim smirks. “I’ve had it for a while, but never used it until now. Went home to get it and put it in after I was done at the bar.”
Just how long has Tim been awake? That thought is quickly replaced by all kinds of helpful little mental images of Tim working himself open, teasing ever so slowly and carefully like he always does with something new. Did he tease himself enough to come already? Where? In the bathroom to muffle the noise or right there beside him in bed because there was no way Jason would wake up from that much alcohol until he was good and ready.
The need to drag Tim up and onto his rapidly hardening cock is suddenly the most important thing in the world and Jason curses himself for only having one good hand. A proper manhandling requires two.
“You gonna let me take it out and replace it with something else?”
The smirk grows and Tim peels off his shirt in one smooth movement. “I thought you’d never ask.”
The End! (For now...)