Jason's body feels like a deep, drawn-out groan waiting to happen. If only he had the energy to let it out. Even dragging himself to the bathroom and relieving himself requires tremendous effort.
Outwardly, there's nothing wrong with him, if you can ignore the thick pink lines of his autopsy scar dipping into skin. That one never healed completely, although his burn scars did. Figures. Jason would have to deal with an overt reminder of the time he died for the rest of his second chance at life. As if casually falling apart and barely noticing when he does wasn't enough of a reminder.
Jason scratches his stomach, where a long gaping hole should be. Perhaps his insides aren't assembled in the way they should be – Dick has been known to carelessly stuff them back in on occasion, without bothering to arrange them correctly first – and perhaps that's what causes his unease.
It must be. It's an easy answer, one that, once settled on, can give him some peace of mind and quiet down the need to search any further.
His training, however, dismisses easy answers.
It leaves Jason to stare down at his dick in his hand, not angling so much as locking it in place, afraid to even piss if it means losing it again.
He tells himself he's being irrational, tells himself it didn't fall off even when he came hard over Dick's stomach, tells himself that everything is fine, that there's no need to think about this any more. But it's not enough to shake the nagging thought that if he pops shoulders of their sockets on the regular, what's stopping his dick from coming unglued? Even the association with glue is born out of anxiety rather than fact. It had been healed back on, not stitched or glued or stapled, but through actual re-binding of tissue.
Still, it feels like only a temporary fix.
He splashes water into his face, determined to put this line of reasoning out of his mind, and it couldn't be cold enough for his liking. Freeze the niggling thoughts in their spot, and best shatter them while you're at it.
He pulls on some boxer briefs and a shirt to cover up his scars, then throws on track pants and a hoodie just to be decent, before heading downstairs.
The scene that greets him there is familiar and familial enough: Dick making pancakes for lunch, Roy cutting them up for Lian, and Lian spearing one of the pieces with her small plastic fork and graciously offering it to Jason.
Dick's eyes light up the moment they settle on Jason and it never fails to be jarring. On the one hand, Jason wants Dick's love and attention more than anything in the world, and feels warmth bubble up from inside of him when he gets it. On the other, it's strange to be given it, strange to think that anyone would be happy to see him, let alone cherish his company.
It's a little bit eerie too, because Dick's eyes are glowing like xenon headlights.
Dick leaves his spatula against the frying pan and throws his arms around Jason. His shadow caresses him too.
Jason winds his left arm around Dick's shoulder, kisses the top of his head, and inhales the curiously non-threatening scent of tea tree oil, peppermint and lavender. He fills himself with it, fills himself with the warmth emanating from Dick's skin, and the absence of bone-chilling anxiety he usually instills in Jason.
Sometimes, Dick can fake being human so well.
Jason slips out of his embrace and around the table, to accept Lian's gift with a suitably loud appreciative noise, to ruffle her fine black hair, and to greet Roy with a kiss.
"Feeling okay?" Roy asks, smiling against Jason's mouth. He's never more blissful than when he spends time with his daughter. It spreads across every aspect of his life, and so it spreads over Jason, too.
Or maybe the tingle on his lips is due to something else, entirely.
"Are you scanning me?" he asks, without inflection.
"Force of habit," Roy admits, not at all sheepish about it. "You know, you're like a locked box. I can't sense you unless you're in distress. I can even sense Dick, and he's not..."
"Yeah, I know." Jason sits down on Roy's other side, keeping an eye on Lian to gauge how much she's listening and, moreover, understanding. "But that has nothing to do with your healing magic."
"My gifts, yes." Roy looks down at his palm, opening and closing it as though it held at least one answer to the secrets of the universe if he only concentrated long enough. "No, you're right, it's not the same at all."
"Before we bonded, Roy couldn't sense me either," Dick chimes in, heaping another thick pancake on top of an already precarious-looking pile. It has a soft and even shade of brown. Dick didn't make them this pretty when Jason was still alive. In fact, he relied on Alfred to supply him with pancakes. "Or, I guess he felt a sort of... wrongness in me, wasn't it?" Dick shifts uncomfortably, but laughs it off. "I can hardly remember what it was like not to have you in my head."
"Quieter, I'd imagine."
"Lonelier, for sure."
When Dick slides into the nearest chair, Roy reaches his hand across the table to put it atop Dick's. His eyes soften, complemented by an equally soft smile. It grows wider the moment Lian smacks her own tiny palm on top of their clasped hands. It's not clear whether it's a gesture of joyful approval, of wanting to join in, or of telling them to cut it out.
A mean part of Jason likes the latter option, but he doesn't want to stay to find out which way they'll take it. They're disgustingly physical at times – not only with each other but with him, too – and usually he's fine with that, so he doesn't know what bug crawled up his ass today.
Jason's chair scrapes over the floor when he stands. It draws everyone's attention.
"I'm going for a run," he announces before he even knows what he's saying. Their curiosity made him do it.
Fine, no take-backs. He'll go for a run then. Gets him out of the house and away from their talk of bonds and their past together. A past Jason had had no part in.
"You haven't touched your pancakes yet," Dick calls after him, but Jason is determined.
It's petty of him to bear resentment over something that happened when he hadn't even become Robin yet. But here he is, feeling like he can't ever mean even a fraction to either of them as they mean to each other.
Sometimes, in his darker hours, Jason wonders if he's nothing more than a fucktoy Dick can't break, or a convenient babysitter when Roy can't find anyone else.
These are his darker hours.
It's not even like he minds. Perhaps something is seriously wrong with him, but he gets off on Dick letting loose and putting the fear of God into him. (Also, his tentacles. Because you haven't had kinky sex until your boyfriend has fucked you with a part of himself that is more idea than physical presence, but which makes you cry anyway.) There is something indescribably sexy about Dick's sharp, otherworldly features and his disregard for human sanity.
Jason suppresses the uncomfortable stirring in his nether regions and jabs his feet into his training shoes. They don't have enough cushioning to be excellent for running, but he'll take aching knees over the turmoil in his head any day. It's the billionaire's lifestyle that taught him there's a benefit to cushioning in shoes in the first place. Back when he was still a runner in the hood, he didn't care if his sneakers were falling apart so long as they got him to where he needed to go.
He doesn't have any particular destination in mind when he heads out, but Star City isn't Gotham and he doesn't have to trek a million miles to find a green spot somewhere. There's a park no farther than a block from Roy's suburban retreat, and it's just what Jason needs. He jogs past office workers on their lunch break clogging up the benches, around parents pushing prams, and over dogs excitedly fetching whatever their owner threw for them, all the while soaking up the sun, the twittering of birds, and the rushing of the wind through the trees.
With every lap he does, more of his bad mood melts away.
Dick absently gnaws on a pancake with the teeth of one of his shadow tendrils as he watches Jason leave. Through the kitchen window, he sees him jog down the driveway and pull his hood up before continuing on.
Jason has always been self-conscious in broad daylight, even more so since he returned from the dead. Dick tries to understand, as he does every aspect of human life, but he likes the sun so much, likes how it brightens other people's mood, likes how warm it feels on his skin – warm to the point of burning.
Likes, most of all, how it hides his shadows.
On a clear, sunny day, his powers are less severe, less frightening, and he doesn't have to keep himself in check as much. It's freeing in a way, to not have to exert so much energy hiding what he truly is.
Even now, with Lian so close and vulnerable, he can't relax and as a result, feels a growing pit in his stomach about having been so careless last night. He can't help the urges or the hunger, but sometimes, even just thinking he can't help it seems like a cop-out. What if he can but doesn't want to, because it's so much better to act on his hunger and take what he needs?
He worries about that a lot.
Poor Jason, bearing the brunt of all his whims. Because he can take it. Because he wants to take it.
Roy is not scared of Dick: their bond protects him. And maybe his blessing does, too. Jason, however, has no such protection and yet is still willing to stare down his fears every time he is with Dick. It's... more than just flattering. It's one of the reasons he's hopelessly in love with this brave soul.
Dick fondly remembers how resolute Jason had been as a kid, when he'd just taken up the mantle of Robin; Dick hadn't been too happy about that, which meant he wasn't trying too hard to keep his menace at bay. Jason had been close to tears in Dick's presence, so tense he was trembling all over and could barely squeak the words "I'm fine" but try he did.
Jason's fear had lessened over the years, but it's still there. It's in the tightness of his lips or the tension in his shoulders, but Jason refuses to acknowledge it. Or maybe he doesn't even notice anymore. Perhaps it's become a part of him the way walking around in a human shape has become a part of Dick.
"I worry about him sometimes," Dick says almost to himself. He's begun ripping his pancake to shreds with his fingers while his tendrils are gnawing at the smaller pieces with gusto.
He balances on the back legs of his chair so he can reach back and shut off the stove. He could have used any of the limbs he folds away from view in his human form but he's conditioned himself to not pull any "freaky shit" – as Jason would call it – when he's around children. He'll perform simple "magic tricks" when they're prepared to be wowed, like lifting something out of his human reach and calling it levitation. His rule is: if it brings a smile to their faces, it's okay; if it doesn't, he'll cut it out immediately.
His nibbling doesn't seem to bother Lian.
Children have always been a good indicator for what works about his disguise and what doesn't. (He still calls it disguise sometimes, even though this body feels more real to him than his actual shape, which isn't much of a concrete shape at all. It's difficult to describe given the limitations of language and the physics of this dimension.) They don't filter out their reactions the way adults do, and if Dick scares them, he'll know it by their wide, tear-filled eyes, their soiled garments, or their high-pitched screaming.
It's been... a learning experience over the years, but he thinks he's pretty much got the hang of it now. So much so that he can trust himself around Lian, this tiny human offspring that he adores so much and that Roy is currently cleaning maple syrup off of.
"Try all the time," Roy says. "When you're not making doe eyes at him, all you do is worry – and think about eating him, but I kind of get the feeling those two things are connected somehow."
"Is this something we should be talking about around Lian?"
Roy laughs. "With me and Jade as her parents, I doubt there's anything strange enough to shock her. Isn't that right, sweetheart?"
Lian giggles excitedly as Roy ruffles her hair.
"I can assure you there are stranger things out there than you wanting to eat Jason out of love."
"I don't know." Dick crosses his arms on the table and rest his chin on them. "Jason has made it clear that it's definitely not normal to want that."
"Dick, nothing about you is 'normal,' when will you accept that? It's not a bad thing to be."
"Easy for you to say when you don't drive people insane the moment you're not trying to be normal."
"I'm just saying you don't have to sweat it so hard. Normal is not a defined standard, you know. And none of us is normal by any definition of the word."
"Human, then," Dick says, brows furrowed and in need of something else to shred now that he's done with his pancake. He picks up a dish towel, wipes his greasy fingers on it, and wrings that instead.
"Human is complex."
"So I gather."
"You're doing fine."
With a sigh, Dick slips his fingers into the collar of his T-shirt and rests them below the back of his neck. "I think I'd be doing a lot better if I knew he could... feel what I feel for him. Like you do."
"Back to Jason again, huh?" Roy asks, and if his tone of voice has a somewhat defeated quality to it, it's not because he's jealous. That much Dick can be certain of. "We've been over this."
"It would kill him."
"It nearly killed me."
"I know, Roy. I was there. I'm aware of the dangers, but we didn't do it right last time."
"And, what? You're willing to bet everything because you want to, I don't even know, reassure him that he's more to you than just a meat bag you can have fun with? I'm pretty sure he knows already."
Dick kind of resents it when Roy lectures him – especially when the subject is human anything. Dick feels like he should know all of that by now. And he does in a way, but at the same time, it hasn't sunk in yet and the refresher course is probably needed.
"Human emotion is contradictory sometimes, Dick. If Jason loves you the way you love him, which I know he does by the way, he's going to deal with however else you make him feel as well. On his own terms. But you've got to give him a little space to figure out what he feels first, okay?"
Dick's face twists. "I want him to know, Roy. Beyond the shadow of a doubt."
"Then tell him."
Dick just stares, and going by the funny change Roy's expression is going through – from earnest to wary to incredulous to you gotta be kidding me if Dick is reading all that right – his reaction wasn't the one Roy expected.
"Don't tell me you haven't talked this over," Roy says.
Dick balances on his chair legs again. "We talk... a lot... just not about... feelings and such. I mean, I show him that I love him and that I want to eat him. That's what you always say: actions speak louder than words, and it sounds true enough, but at the same time... I can't be sure he understands, you know."
Roy gives him a blank stare, but before he can voice his disbelief, Dick is already trying to defend himself.
"Jason is like a clam." Dick claps his palms together, then opens them a crack as if to show Roy something that lies between them. Lian giggles at the demonstration. "A beautiful clam, with a beautiful pearl inside. His feelings. He'll tell me all day every day how he has none because he's dead, but that's just bluster. He has a lot of them. But he keeps them locked away tightly, in his clam shell." Dick presses his palms together again. "And I don't wanna pry because I fear it might damage him or his trust in me, you know. Am I doing this metaphor thing right?"
"Getting there," Roy says dubiously.
"Daddy," Lian interrupts them.
"What is it, sweetheart?" Roy's attention is on her immediately and in full. For a moment, Dick wonders if that's how Jason feels when Roy shows up and Dick gets taken by him. "You're squirming a lot. Do you need to go potty?"
"Yes," she says and raises her arms.
Roy lifts her out of her seat and groans. "You're getting too heavy for daddy to carry. Do you want to walk?"
"No," Lian says determinedly and winds her arms tighter around Roy's neck. "Daddy carry."
Dick smiles. No, it's not the same for Jason. Jason does not have the advantage of being able to feel Dick's rock-solid love for him like Dick can feel Roy's through the bond. It's a frustrated love at times, sure, but one he can be certain of, even when he doesn't have time for Dick.
"Sorry, I gotta—" Roy says with an apologetic look even as he's backing away.
Dick, of course, gives his leave with a simple "Yeah" and a handwave, not wanting to keep them. Truth be told, he's way too preoccupied with the whole Jason deal to even notice they're gone. Except he does notice that his sounding board doesn't give him reassuring answers anymore. But it's okay, Dick can handle this on his own.
Talk to Jason, Roy said.
If only it were that easy.
If only Jason were here.
Dick has started clearing away the dishes by the time Roy returns with a prim and proper Lian in tow.
"Wish I could talk some more, but we're having a playdate," he says.
"It's fine," Dick replies, "I'll just do what you suggested and sit Jason down when he comes back."
"Remember what I said about giving him space. That means, don't jump him the moment he's standing in the doorway."
"Shut up," Roy says and kisses him, "you can do this."
"Me too, me too!" Lian is standing at his feet, arms raised and demanding to be lifted up.
"Of course, munchkin," Dick complies and picks her up, pressing a barrage of kisses against her temple and cheek until she's shrieking with laughter. Those are the best kind of shrieks to Dick's ears. "I don't know what daddy is talking about. You're not heavy at all. He's just lazy and doesn't want to carry you."
"But you're also a big girl who can walk by herself," Roy cuts in with a vaguely betrayed look on his face.
Dick shrugs, expression as innocent as he can make it. "Guess daddy's right. You are a big girl now, princess."
"And you can walk by yourself," Roy says.
"Yes!" Lian squirms and wants to be put down again.
Dick laughs, kisses the top of her head one last time, then lets her down. "You guys have fun."
Slinging Lian's backpack across his shoulder, Roy pulls Dick in for one last quick makeout session while Lian is already making for the door.
"We should be back in time to catch you guys before you leave," he murmurs with his lips against Dick's and his eyes are so heated Dick is loath to let him go.
"Counting on it." Dick grins. "I'm not leaving without one of your patented goodbye kisses.”
"Uncle Jesus!" Lian greets Jason as he opens the door.
"It's Jason, honey, and what are you all doing gathered around the door?"
Jason's voice is light and friendly, a curious contrast to the heavy gaze that settles on Dick and Roy, all up in each other's space, as if he were saying Really, guys? In front of your daughter?
Dick swallows. Jason has the cutest flush on his cheeks and Dick wants to take a bite out of him so bad.
"Going to my friend's house to play!"
"Really? That sounds like a lot of fun. I wish I could come, too."
"Thank you for the invitation, but Uncle Jay's all stinky and in need of a shower."
Lian scrunches up her face as if to say she agrees.
Seeing Jason crouched down to talk to Lian on her level never fails to make Dick's gooey heart melt. Lian is not his, nor does he feel Roy's love for her the way Dick does, and yet he is this sweet with her.
"All right, sweetie. Now that Jason is here, we can leave Dick alone without worrying that he'll set the house on fire."
"Hey!" Dick says even as Lian laughs out loud. "Why are you treating me like a child?"
"Because you need just as much handling as one," Roy says.
Next to him, Jason is trying not to laugh himself. "He's right, you know."
"See, he gets it." Roy winds his arm around Jason, kisses his forehead, then his lips.
Dick is lulled into a false sense of security when Jason lets it happen. That is, until he bites.
"Cut it out," he says, with Roy's bottom lip between his teeth.
"Told you: force of habit," Roy says, pulling back and checking his mouth for blood. There is none. Dick assumes Roy must have been sensing Jason again. "Glad you're feeling better, though. Say goodbye to Jason, sweetheart."
"Goodbye, Uncle Jesus!" With a final admonishment of "Don't set fire!" she lets herself be shooed out of the house.
When the door falls shut behind them, an awkward silence is left in their wake. Nervousness suddenly grips Dick, as though he ought to say something to Jason, but he doesn't know what exactly.
So he misses his window of opportunity. Jason walks past him into the kitchen. Dick feels like a lost puppy trailing after him. He watches Jason rummage in the cupboards for a glass, pour water into it, and gulp it down greedily. His back is turned and it's not really inviting conversation.
Dick feels his mouth working as he continues to watch Jason rinse the glass, dry it, and put it back where he found it, but no sound is coming out.
"I'm hitting the shower," Jason says, casting a curious look in Dick's direction, perhaps because Dick hasn't moved since they got here. "You alright there?"
"Have you ever thought of having children of your own?" Dick blurts.
"What?" Jason stops dead in his tracks.
"You're so good with Lian, I thought you might..."
"Why are you asking me this out of the blue?"
"I was wondering if we could pull it off. I mean, if I adjusted my anatomy and all."
Dick has no idea where that thought came from but it's there now and he's running with it. At least they're talking, right?
Jason nearly chokes. "I thought you were talking either hypothetical or adoption, not uh, producing offspring of our own."
"You don't think it could work?"
"Are you sure you're alright?" Jason asks as he's making a show of feeling Dick's temperature before sliding his hands down to Dick's biceps. "I honestly don't wanna think about it at all. The idea of putting little eldritch zombies into the world turns me way off."
"I thought you loved children."
Jason sighs. "Other people's children are fine. You can play with them for a while, show them a fun time, and give them back to their guardians at the end of the day. I don't want to be saddled with the responsibility of raising them. Besides, I think I'm sterile so asking if I'd like to have little Jasons running around is kind of moot."
Jason shoots him a quizzical look. "Do you want children?"
"What? Oh, I... I don't know. I've never really thought about it."
"Then why bring it up?"
"I don't know, Jason," Dick whines, overcome by his own helplessness. "I just don't know. How to talk to you. How to let you know that—"
Dick clamps his mouth shut. He's oversharing. Jason is not going to appreciate it.
"That what? Come here." Jason pulls up a chair and Dick into his lap. "What's eating you?"
Dick lets himself sink into Jason's embrace and nestles his head in the crook of his neck. There are more comfortable positions for either of them, but all Dick cares about right now is being held and inhaling Jason. Beneath the faint layer of sweat is that delicious tang the Lazarus Pit has left on him, like marinade. It smells... homey in a way, and it never fails to make Dick's mouth water.
"I love you," he murmurs. His hand is burrowing under Jason's hoodie in search of skin. Something inside him settles the moment his thumb brushes the thick scar running up from Jason's navel. "And I'm not sure you know that."
"That's what's going on?"
"I mean, yeah. You're acting weird whenever I'm around Roy, like I'm going to ditch you and stay with Roy forever, but it's not like that."
Jason is quiet for a moment before he says, "I was an ass this morning, wasn't I?"
Dick laughs. "Not more so than usual."
"Yeah, sorry. I think I'm going through some shit right now, but that wasn't about Roy."
"Was I too much?"
"Hm?" Jason asks, carding his fingers through Dick's hair.
"Last night, did I go too far? I can't stop thinking about ripping you open and feeling you from the inside. Your entrails were so warm, the smell of blood so thick in the air, and your fear—God, your fear and your anguish were so delicious. I haven't feasted that well in forever."
Over the years, Dick has learned to live with the hunger that never stops gnawing at him. And to ignore it, mostly. He gets by on the occasional nightmare or the anxieties of other people, but nothing feeds him as well as the feeling of terror and the pain he himself inflicts. Jason indulges him sometimes because he can take it and Dick loves him all the more for it.
Dick notices his hand clawing into Jason's chest, his breath coming in shallow bursts, his desire for Jason burning away his ability to think straight.
"I'm..." He retracts his fingers and looks up at Jason, whose expression is somewhere between guarded and aroused. "I'm sorry if I did. I want to make it up to you."
Dick slides off Jason's lap to kneel on the floor, hands on his knees and palming up his thighs.
Jason grimaces. "That's, uh, very considerate of you, but no offense. After last night, I don't want your shark teeth anywhere near me."
"I can retract them too if you prefer plain gums," Dick suggests brightly.
"Yeah, I don't know what's worse."
"I just want to make you feel good." Dick nuzzles the inside of Jason's thigh. He wants Jason in his mouth so bad that he starts nibbling on his knuckles and running his tongue along the pads of his fingers before sucking on them.
Jason hisses. "One day your mood swings are gonna give me whiplash. I don't even know how we got here anymore."
Dick runs his teeth along Jason's digits as he pulls them out of his mouth again. "Does it matter as long as we're here?"
He reaches out rub the very obvious erection tenting Jason's sweatpants, but Jason catches his wrist.
"I said no."
"So maybe it was 'I don't think so.' Still means no."
Dick blows out his cheeks for a second, then stops sulking and crawls back into Jason's lap. He's never gonna get tired of feeling him up, or of leaning so close their breaths mingle.
"What else can I do for you then?" he asks before capturing those plush, bloodless lips. He'll never tire of this either. Or of Jason groping his ass.
"I think I might have an idea," Jason murmurs against Dick's lips.
"Let's hear it."
Jason's growing smirk should have alerted Dick to the fact that he's not going to like Jason's suggestion at all, but still, like a fool, he falls for it every time.
"You could pack your shit together," Jason says with a shit-eating grin. "Now, I mean. Instead of waiting for the last possible moment, delaying us for another half hour and then still managing to forget half your stuff."
Dick groans and lets his head drop against Jason's shoulder. "I'm sensing a grudge there."
"Grudge? Oh no, just speaking from experience."
"An experience you're holding a grudge over."
"I'm just saying. You wanted to do something for me, I gave you something to do. Now, are you gonna do it?"
"Fine." Dick narrows his eyes at Jason and pulls the corners of his mouth down. "But only because I owe you."
"Great," Jason says and smacks Dick's ass. "Guess I should let you rip me open more often if it makes you so agreeable."
Dick was about to slide off Jason's lap, then stills. "You... would?"
"Let's discuss this after you've packed your shit."
"Okay!" Dick hops up and away. He feels better now for talking with Jason, even if he didn't hit on everything he'd wanted to talk about. But well, the next opportunity certainly won't be long in coming, Dick only hopes he got enough of his thoughts across to tide Jason over until then.