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baby, you can crash my party anytime

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Things with Roy have been going well. Jason still finds himself panicking over how things will end up, but Tim has been checking in on him steadily now that he knows how worried he is about it, and it's been a big help. His therapist is helping, too, but Jason finds himself confiding more and more in his younger brother. It almost feels like it did when they were kids, back before his parents divorced and Tim's died - back when they were still best friends, ready to take on the world together. Jason hadn't quite realised how much he'd missed that.

He'd managed to have that talk with Damian, too, and gotten his youngest brother to agree not to put off college for his sake. Damian will be leaving for New York near the end of the month, as was originally planned, just with the caveat that he'd be coming home most weekends now, rather than just once a month. Jason figures the kid will get too tied up with school work eventually, and just hopes his brother will manage to make some friends along the way, too. Jon won't be joining him at Columbia for another two years, after all.

So, yeah, things are starting to look up, as far as Jason is concerned. He and Roy have been on two more dates in the two weeks since their first kiss, and Roy hasn't pushed him for anything more. Jason would be worried that the other man doesn't actually find him desirable, but he's noticed the way Roy’s jeans tent when their kisses start to get heated. It makes Jason's skin itch a little, anxiety rolling over him like a wave, but, still, Roy doesn't try to take things further.

He knows he shouldn't have to feel grateful for that, but he does.

He's less worried about anything like that happening today, and yet more anxious than ever before. It's not a date, even. It's just, today will be the first time Roy and his dad have seen each other since he and Roy started seeing each other, and Roy's first time meeting his mother. Plus, it will be his own second time seeing Lian. And Jason knows that could be a good thing, but he's also worried about how wrong it could all go. Still, the idea of not inviting Roy and Lian over for his birthday hadn't sat right with him, no matter how new their relationship is.

And that’s another issue that's been starting to nag at him; neither he nor Roy has brought up putting a name to what it is that they're doing. Is it even a relationship? Would he have any right to be upset if Roy were to start seeing someone else? Would Roy even be obligated to tell him, if he did?

That, at least, was something Jason hadn't needed to worry about with Max. He'd always been too busy controlling what Jason could and couldn't do to have time to see someone on the side.

Jason is pulled from his thoughts by the sight of a black Rolls Royce pulling up the driveway, and he grins, abandoning his post by the window to dash across the room and out into the foyer.

“Damian! She's here!” He hollers up the stairs as he passes, and then makes a beeline for the entrance to the garage, since Talia will be staying at the Manor for the duration of her visit. Jason had been thrilled to hear that, eager to spend as much time with his mother as he could before she has to leave.

Damian, he knows, is thrilled, too. He's not sure his brother would admit it, but Jason can see how happy he is to have both of his parents there to see him off to college.

He watches from the doorway as Talia pulls into the garage and parks, and she barely has her door open before Jason can't take it anymore, and runs across the space between them. Even at his worst, Max had never kept him from seeing his mother for more than a month at a time. Logically, Jason knows he's only been back in Gotham for a few weeks more than that, but with everything that's been going on, it feels like it's been an eternity. And, really, it’s not like the last two months he’d spent with his mother had been good ones, what with being in the hospital and all.

Talia exits the SUV, closes the door, and turns to face him with open arms and an indulgent smile on her face just in time for Jason to crash into her.

“I missed you,” he says immediately, nuzzling into the crook of her neck as his arms wrap around her.

“I've missed you too, habibi,” she murmurs after pressing a kiss into his hair.

A moment later, Jason feels a weight at his back as Damian joins them, and Talia does her best to wrap her arms around both of her sons.

“I've missed you both so much,” she adds, and Jason clings tighter for a long moment before carefully extracting himself from between his mother and Damian so the two can embrace properly.

Damian murmurs something that Jason doesn't quite catch, but it makes Talia smile and that's all that really matters.

Eventually, they pull apart, and Talia looks Damian over, her eyes going a bit misty.

“You've grown so much since last summer,” she tells him, sounding a bit wistful, and Jason remembers feeling that same way when he'd seen Damian, too. It had been one thing to see photos and know that his baby brother had had another growth spurt, but seeing him in person… It had made Jason ache with regret at how much he'd missed out on with his family back in Gotham.

Jason moves to open the trunk and gathers his mother's bags while her and Damian finish having their little moment, and then starts back towards the door to the Manor. He presses a kiss to his mother's cheek as he passes her.

“Let's head in, yeah?” He says, “We probably have time for a late tea with Alfie before everyone starts showing up.”

Listening to his mother and youngest brother chatting away as they follow him, Jason smiles, his heart feeling lighter than it has in a very, very long time as he leads the way back into the Manor with a spring in his step.

Alfred, Damian, Jason and Talia are just finishing up their afternoon tea when Dick swans into the kitchen with Babs following behind him, an apologetic look on her face.

“There's the birthday boy,” Dick sing-songs and Jason can feel his cheeks heating up as he tries to sink down in his chair. It's not enough, of course, to stop Dick from hauling him up and dragging him into a crushing hug. Jason allows it for a few seconds, before trying to push his older brother off of him to no avail.

“Dick,” he pleads, “Oh my God, you're smothering me.” He shoots Babs a desperate look around the time Dick presses a sloppy kiss to his cheek.

“Babs, help,” he begs, “Control your husband.”

The woman in question lets out a chuckle, but she must take pity on him, because she comes over and presses a quick kiss to Jason's other cheek before helping to pry Dick off of him.

“Happy birthday, Jay,” she says while Dick pouts. The eldest Wayne child is quickly distracted, though, turning his affection on a disgruntled Damian instead. Jason would be sorry, but better Damian than himself.

“Thanks, Babs,” Jason replies, before turning to his mother, “Mum, you remember Barbara Gordon, right?”

“Of course,” she says, donning her ‘public relations smile,’ “Though I hear it's Grayson-Wayne now. Congratulations.”

“Thank you,” Babs says, then clears her throat and shoots Dick a look.

Dick finally releases Damian, but not before ruffling his hair, and turns to give Talia a slightly forced smile, “Yeah. Thanks. Hi Talia.”

“Richard,” Talia responds, giving him a small nod of acknowledgement.

Jason shifts uncomfortably, and shares a look with Damian as the younger boy struggles to fix his hair. Before either of them can say anything, however, Alfred cuts through the building tension.

“I do believe the rest of the family will be here shortly,” he interrupts smoothly as he stands and begins to load their dishes back onto the tea trolley, “Master Dick, might I trouble you to collect your father from his study?”

“Sure, Alfie,” Dick says, shooting the older man an apologetic smile before leaving to do as asked.

Alfred shoos Jason off when he tries to help load up the trolley, and he gives a defeated huff before turning towards the patio doors.

“Gonna go have a fag before the chaos really starts,” he says, and he thinks he catches a disapproving look on his mother's face as he makes his way across the kitchen and out the doors. Whatever. He knows smoking is bad for him, but he’s got no plans to quit, no matter how disapproving his parents are.

Once he's alone, Jason lets out the sigh he'd been holding in. Fuck, it's been a long time since he's had to deal with Dick and Talia's resentment for each other like this; it's not even been ten minutes, and he already kind of wants to knock their heads together.

With another sigh, he reaches for his lighter and the pack of cigarettes in his pocket and drops down into one of the patio chairs. Taking one from the package, he sets it between his lips and drops the rest of the pack on the table before lighting it and taking a long drag. He tilts his head back over the chairback and exhales, his eyes drifting closed as he lets the nicotine do its work to ease his nerves.

He's just lit up his second cigarette when the patio doors open again and he looks over to see Tim coming out to join him.

“Hey,” he greets, tossing the pack to his brother as he takes another drag. Tim catches it easily, and takes one out before setting the pack back on the table and grabbing the lighter.

“Hey, yourself,” Tim says, a slight smirk pulling at his lips, “Happy birthday, Jay.”

Jason just kind of grunts in acknowledgement, and Tim chuckles before lighting up his own cigarette and leaning back against the railing of the deck.

“Cass and Steph got here just after I did,” he says after a moment, “You planning on going back in to say hi?”

Jason scowls, and then takes another drag, “Yeah. I was just waiting for enough of a buffer first.”

Tim makes a sympathetic noise around an exhale of smoke, “That bad, huh?”

“Not really,” Jason says with a shrug, “Just not used to it anymore, I guess.”

Tim doesn't say anything else to that, for which Jason is grateful. They both finish their cigarettes in comfortable silence, putting them out in the ashtray on the table before moving to head back inside.

Tim leads the way to the primary sitting room, and Jason is immediately hit by the weight of his sister colliding with him when they step inside.

“Little brother,” she says happily, and Jason gives her a quick squeeze of a hug before letting go. Thankfully, she gets the point and releases him, but takes his hand as she steps back so she can drag him over to join her, Steph, and Duke on the sectional.

“Sup?” He greets, nodding to each of them, and Steph blows him a kiss while Duke merely nods back.

Cass gently pushes him down onto the couch, and settles in next to him. He glances around the room, and is pleased to find his parents sitting together on one of the smaller couches, chatting about something that Jason really hopes isn't just business. Or him. Dick is sprawled on a recliner with Babs in his lap, and Tim takes the end of the sectional closest to them and is quickly drawn into whatever discussion the couple were having.

If Damian and Alfred were there, it would be the first time Jason's had his entire family together, well, ever, if you consider when Duke joined them. That alone is going to make whatever awkwardness arises during his mother's visit worthwhile.

As if he'd heard Jason's thoughts, Damian comes in a few minutes later, his cat cradled in his arms like a baby.

“I thought I heard Brown's hyena laughter earlier,” he muses, but there's no malice in his tone or his eyes, and Steph rolls her own eyes in response.

“Someone has to keep this place lively,” she quips, and Damian scoffs as he goes to join his parents, forcing his way in between them with a smile like the cat that got the canary.

Seemingly absentmindedly, Talia reaches out to lightly thread her fingers through his hair, and Jason can see him starting to relax.

Good, he thinks, the kid deserves it.

Jason himself is content to just sit there, surrounded by the quiet din of his family's conversations, and he nearly forgets that they're still expecting two more guests until the doorbell rings. Dick must've given Roy his code for the gates, for Alfred to not already have been at the door to answer it.

He moves to stand up at the same time that Dick shifts out from underneath Babs and stands as well.

“I got it, Jay,” he says, chuckling as he adds, “Someone's gonna have to wrangle Lian.”

Jason suspects that Dick really only added that last bit so that he can't protest being waited on, but whatever. He shrugs, and sits back down as Dick makes his way to the foyer. He catches his father's eye twitching a little as he watches Dick leave, and Jason sinks a little lower in his seat.

Maybe inviting Roy and Lian was a bad idea. Sure, he'd warned Roy that his parents were both liable to grill him, but he's still not sure that's enough. Roy has no reason to want to put up with that kind of bullshit just for him.

Peels of childish laughter filter down the hall a few moments later, and the sound instantly has Jason relaxing again. No one's going to cause an all-out scene with a kid around, right?

He supposes he's about to find out.

Dick comes back a couple of minutes later, with Lian on his shoulders, her fingers tugging at his hair to help her keep her balance.

“Hello!” She announces cheerfully to the room at large, smiling brightly as everyone echoes the greeting back to her. She kicks Dick lightly in the chest, and points towards Babs as she demands, “Auntie Babs!”

He thinks he hears Babs say something back, but he doesn't really catch it because his attention has locked onto Roy, who is hesitating in the door frame, looking a bit uncomfortable and out of place. Jason offers him a shy smile when their eyes meet, and some of the hesitation in the older man's posture dissipates.

Jason stands and walks over to him, determined to ignore the way he feels like all eyes are on him suddenly lest he discover it's true.

“I'm glad you could make it,” he says, his cheeks darkening when Roy leans in to press a kiss to one of them.

“Wouldn't have missed it,” Roy reassures him, taking his hand and squeezing it once, “Happy birthday, Jaybird.”

Jason gives him a shy smile, but before he can say anything else, Dick interrupts him.

“Oi, Queen,” he calls across the room, “Don’t think you get to hog the man of the hour just ‘cuz you’re-”

Jason’s blush darkens, and he buries his face in his hands with a mortified squeak as Babs slaps her hand across Dick’s mouth and hisses about ‘little ears in the room, Dick!’ It takes Jason a second to realise, no, she doesn’t mean Damian, because his baby brother is an adult now, but he shoots Roy a wide-eyed look when he finally catches up - because Lian still doesn’t know that they’re dating. Roy is still trying to figure out how to have that conversation with her.

There’s a slight blush on Roy’s cheeks, as well, though he looks significantly less embarrassed than Jason. He does, however, look nervous, and when his gaze darts towards Bruce, Talia and Damian, Jason thinks he can understand why. But then Roy throws him a smirk, and rolls his eyes in Dick’s direction, and Jason feels himself starting to relax. He shoots a glare at Steph, who is only half-heartedly trying to stifle her laughter with her fist, and very intentionally does not look at his parents. Bruce coughs, as if to clear his throat, but doesn’t actually say anything, so Jason is going to count it as a win, for now.

Lian looks from Dick and Babs over to Steph, and then just kind of shrugs and makes her way over to Damian.

“Kitty!” She says, and reaches out to pet the cat in Damian’s lap.

“Gentle,” Roy calls out as a reminder, and then goes to join her, crouching down to her level and setting his hand gently on her back, “Did we ask Uncle Damian if you’re allowed to pet the kitty?”

Jason’s pretty sure his heart is melting in his chest as he watches them together, and, when his eyes meet his mother’s for a second, he thinks she might be able to tell, if her amused smirk is anything to go by. He quickly averts his gaze and then gingerly sits down on the arm of the couch.

Lian, meanwhile, pauses with her hand less than an inch away from the cat’s spine, and turns wide, innocent eyes up at Damian, “Please, may I pet the kitty cat, Uncle Dami?”

Damian twitches slightly, but then gives her a small nod, and Jason is gratified to see that he isn’t the only one with no immunity against the little girl. He’s also immensely grateful that Damian isn’t letting his distrust of Roy spread to Lian.

“His name is Alfred,” he tells her as he reaches out to lower her hand until she’s touching fur, “And your father is right, you must be gentle.”

Lian giggles as she pets Alfred a few times, eventually coaxing a gentle purring from him, and Roy gives Damian a look, waiting for his nod before he stands up and moves to sit at the end of the couch, next to Jason. He lets his arm rest between Jason’s back and the back of the couch, and Jason tries his best not to tense or let himself get distracted by the slight contact.

“Jason says she dances now,” Cass comments curiously, leaning across Steph’s lap to speak to Roy.

Jason bites his lip, and hopes Roy won’t be upset that he’s spoken to his siblings about Roy and his daughter, but Roy doesn’t seem bothered, grinning proudly instead.

“Yeah,” he says, “She just started back in January. Ballet, she loves it.”

Cass smiles brightly, her eyes lighting up the way they always do when she gets to talk about ballet.

“When I have a show,” she says, “You should bring her.”

“I bet she’d love that,” Roy tells her, his gaze flicking towards his daughter, who is now sprawled across Talia and Damian’s laps with Alfred curled up on her chest.

Jason feels himself slowly relaxing, leaning back slightly into Roy’s touch as he listens in on snippets of the conversations surrounding him. He knows this could just be the calm before the storm, knows that he’s going to have to drag Roy and his parents off for a proper ‘introduction’ eventually, but, for the moment, he’s going to bask in how right it feels to have everyone together like this.

Chapter Text

Jason’s worried that things are finally about to go sideways shortly after they all sit down for dinner a while later. They’ve just moved onto the main course, and Alfred has finally sat down to join them, when Talia zeroes in on Roy.

“So, Roy,” she says, and Jason sits up straighter, looking from his mother to Roy anxiously, “What is it that you do? It's my understanding that you aren't employed by your father?”

Roy, at least, seems to take it in stride, looking up at Talia as he responds, “I work for an IT firm, doing repairs mostly. I've been thinking about community college, though. Electrical engineering, probably.”

Jason watches his mother intently, but she shows nothing besides polite interest on her face.

“Roy is, like, my go-to guy whenever stuff breaks,” Dick pipes up, and Roy ducks his head as if he's embarrassed, “He always makes it run even better than before it broke.”

“I see,” Talia hums, “I suppose Oliver would be recruiting you when you graduate?”

Roy takes a moment to consider his words before replying.

“I guess he'll try,” he says finally, “But mine and Lian's lives are in Gotham now, I'm not sure I want to move back to Star City.”

Jason feels his heart flutter a bit at that, even as he tells himself it's absurd to think that Roy is even vaguely considering him a part of the life he'd be leaving behind.

“Well,” Tim cuts in before anyone else can comment, “It's a good thing you're so well connected here, then.”

Everyone chuckles a bit at that, and a hint of the tension in the room fades.

“Yeah,” Duke points out, “I mean, you've got two CEOs and a company president in this room alone.”

“There is an al Ghul Corp satellite in Gotham,” Talia concedes.

Jason knows it's far from a promise, but the fact that his mother would even mention it fills him with hope.

“And DI is always looking for new talent,” Tim adds, then glances at their father, who nods, “And so is Wayne Enterprises.”

A hopeful smile blooms across Jason's face as he looks over at his father, who returns it with a tentative one of his own before he returns to cutting up Lian's lasagne into smaller pieces. Huh. Jason shoots a considering look at Dick and Babs, and wonders if maybe their dad just really wants grandkids.

Roy, on the other hand, looks a bit overwhelmed, sheepishly rubbing at the back of his neck, “Wow, uh. Thanks? That's… a lot to think about, but thank you.”

“Well, I think that's quite enough shop talk for one night,” Alfred comments, sparing them all from any awkward promises or unintentional offense, and Jason loves how he's always so good at reading a room, “Mister Harper-Queen is here as Master Jason's guest, not a business associate.”

Steph makes an ohhh sound, always amused to watch Alfred politely scolding someone, and Cass gently elbows her in the ribs, but she's wearing a smirk of her own.

“Of course, Alfred,” Talia agrees smoothly, “It appears we did get a bit off-course there.”

Jason kind of hopes that will be that, at least for now, that everyone will just be able to focus on eating their dinner instead of interrogating his not-boyfriend, but, of course, he could never be so lucky.

Talia focuses back in on Roy quickly, asking, “How did the two of you meet?”

Roy grins over at Jason, who finds himself smiling back even as a blush spreads across his cheeks and his stomach flips with nerves.

“Jay here was something of a white knight,” Roy says, and Jason feels that blush grow darker, “I had a flat, and he stopped to help me change it.”

Bruce gives an undignified snort of amusement, making Lian giggle next to him, and Jason hunches lower in his seat, his gaze casting around the table to find similar looks of amusement on the faces of most of the others. Roy narrows his gaze a little, and looks over at Dick with an eyebrow raised.

“Jaybird here has a habit of meeting people over car tires,” Dick explains with a grin, and Jason groans miserably.

Roy has a considering look on his face, and it slowly morphs into one of unbridled glee as he turns back to Jason, “You said you’ve known how to take a tire off since you were a kid...” His grin grows as Jason scowls and crosses his arms.

“Jay tried to steal B’s tires,” Dick confirms gleefully, and Jason wishes he were anywhere else because, dammit, why was this still one of the family’s favourite stories to tell?

“So, B and I are walking back to the car after going to the circus, right?” Dick continues, and Roy reaches out to grab his hand under the table; it’s more comforting than Jason cares to admit.

“Dick,” he whines anyway, but when Dick doesn’t pay him any mind, Jason turns to Alfred petulantly, “Alfie, make him stop.”

“Now, Master Jason,” Alfred chastises, but there’s a twinkle in his eyes, “You know how much your brother loves to tell this story. Let’s just humour him, shall we?”

“Traitor,” he mutters, but his lips curl into a small grin as Alfred winks at him, and Dick full on beams.

“So, anyway, we’re walking back to the car, and when we get there, there’s this little punk who couldn’t have been more than eighty pounds soaking wet about to pry one of the hubcaps off of the car, and two of the others tires are already stacked up on the ground next to him…”

Jason sighs in defeat, and does his best to tune out the story as he shovels pasta into his mouth and looks around the table. Besides Dick, everyone is picking away at their own plates, though Steph and Duke look just as enraptured as Roy does, and Jason supposes they must not have heard this story before. Lian seems pretty unbothered by the whole thing, more focused on trying to successfully scoop up her dinner without making a mess, and Jason is relieved.

He’s not embarrassed, per se, not ashamed of where he came from and the things he’d had to do to survive, and it’s not like the whole world didn’t already know that Bruce had adopted him from the slums of Gotham. But. He’s still nervous. Max had loved to throw his past in his face at every chance, and, well, Roy has a little girl to think about - what if he decides Jason is going to be a bad influence? He cuts another look towards Roy, and he doesn’t look worried, but that doesn’t have to mean anything.

“And that, my friend, is how I coaxed our poor little Jaybird into being my brother,” Dick finally finishes, and Jason rolls his eyes, but he’s got just the slightest smile curling his lips.

Roy chuckles, and squeezes Jason’s hand as he says, “I bet absolutely no one was surprised when you decided to become a cop.” He leans over, and fake-whispers to Jason, “He thinks he’s this big, tough guy, but all the kids out on the street have Officier Grayson wrapped around their fingers.”

It’s Dick’s turn to let out a whine of protest, and Jason chuckles at how quickly the tables have turned.

“Right, cuz he doesn’t have enough younger siblings as it is,” Tim teases, and Dick pouts as everyone laughs.

Jason shoots Dick a devilish grin, then, because he’s got the perfect way to deflect the attention away from him and Roy now, and Dick’s eyes narrow at him.

“Maybe it’s not siblings he’s after,” Jason points out, trying to sound casual as he blinks innocently over at Dick and then Babs, “Are you guys planning to make me an uncle, or what? I mean, I’m not getting any younger here, Dickie.”

Bruce and Damian both choke on their meals, coughing and spluttering to clear their airways as Dick’s skin decides to give Babs’ hair some competition on the shades-of-red front.

“Jason,” he says sharply, but, where Jason had expected annoyance or embarrassment, it’s only longing and a bit of sorrow that he sees in his brother’s eyes, and it startles him. He turns his attention to Babs, who is pointedly not looking at anyone around the table, and Jason sees Dick’s hand slip beneath the table, presumably to grab his wife’s. He’s suddenly very, very sure that he’s misstepped onto something bad.

“You probably shouldn’t encourage him to start taking in strays,” Tim says, and Jason is so grateful to have someone else there who is better at navigating landmines than he is, “Else we’ll all end up with a hoard of nieces and nephews, and Dad will never let us hear the end of it.”

“I look forward to the day I can pay at least one of you back for all the jokes over the years,” Bruce deadpans, and Jason manages to chuckle, even though his throat still feels like it’s closing up on him. He looks over at Dick again, and his older brother tilts his head before offering a tired smile. It’s okay, he mouths, and Jason frowns, because he’s not sure that’s true, but he isn’t exactly going to make a scene here, so he has no choice but to let it go - for now.

“Admit it, B,” Duke pipes up, “You’re really just looking forward to the day you have a hoard of grandkids. You know, the next generation and all that.”

Bruce’s cheeks light up, and he ducks his head, and Jason tries very hard not to let his gaze slide towards Lian. He looks at Roy, instead, and finds that he is, however, and he’s got a considering look on his face as he finally looks from his daughter over to Bruce.

“You know,” he says after a moment, “You and Ollie have that in common. He keeps dropping hints to Connor and Kyle about adoption.”

Lian smiles brightly at that, and looks up from where she’d been trying to sneak a piece of her dinner to Titus, Damian’s dog, under the table, “Uncle Kyle says I can name their baby if they get one.” She pauses for a moment, and then adds, “I hope it’s a girl. Nana says me ‘n her ‘n Auntie Mia are ‘out-numbers.’”

“Outnumbered,” Roy corrects easily, a grin on his face, “When did you decide all this, hmm?”

Lian just shrugs at that, and goes back to petting Titus, and Roy shakes his head. He should probably call Connor later, find out if there’s anything concrete to this.

“How is your father?” Bruce asks eventually, and Roy shrugs.

“He’s okay, still kickin’,” Roy says, “He and Dinah are headed to Paris for a week for their anniversary, they leave on Monday.”

“Nana says they're gonna go up a really big tower where they can see everything,” Lian gushes excitedly, “And grampy says they're gonna bring me back a dolly who speaks French like my bestest friend ever, Emmy!”

Dick gasps, and clutches his chest in betrayal as he says, “I thought I was your bestest friend ever!”

Lian giggles, and taps a finger to her bottom lip for a few seconds before deciding, “You can be my bestest grown-up friend.”

Dick pretends to consider the offer for a moment before nodding, “Deal.”

Damian scoffs, and mutters something about Dick being a child, and Jason smirks because, aww, Damian is jealous of a five year old, but, sure, Dick is the childish one. (They’re both bloody children, if you ask Jason; at least Damian kind of has an excuse).

After that, the chatter finally starts to die down as everyone finishes their meal, and, once everyone is finished, Alfred stands to clear the table.

“I hope you’ve all saved room for the cake,” he comments, and Jason chuckles and shoots Roy a look.

“Is she gonna sleep if we give her sugar this late?” He asks, and Roy gives a fake put-upon sigh.

“I guess I can allow it,” he says, “Just because it’s such a special occasion.”

There’s a chorus of fond laughter around the table, and Jason turns his attention to Lian herself.

“Hey, Lian,” he says, grinning brightly when she looks up at him, “You wanna come help me blow out my candles?”

The little girl's eyes light up at that, and she squeals as she scrambles out of her seat and rushes over to him. Jason shifts his seat back a bit and lifts her up to settle in his lap.

“Do I get to make a wish, too, Uncle Jay?” She asks excitedly, and Jason chuckles.

“Sure you do, kiddo,” he tells her, and his stomach flips a little when she beams at him. He glances over at Roy, and is surprised to find the older man watching them fondly. He ducks his head a little, embarrassed, but there's a pleased smile curling his lips.

His embarrassment only grows when Alfred returns with the cake, and Dick and Steph start leading everyone into a loud rendition of Happy Birthday. He huffs, shaking his head, but he has to admit that it’s nice, too; he can’t remember the last time anyone had made such a big fanfare about his birthday. Of course, he’d spent the last few with his mother, Damian, and Max - and, once, with his grandfather, too - but they had all been a more relaxed affair, usually just dinner at a nice restaurant. And that had been fine by Jason, really, but this was nice, too.

He’s pretty sure the last time he had an actual birthday “party” had been four years ago, the summer just before he’d started dating Max. Back when he’d still had friends to celebrate with. His last birthday had ended in a screaming match, a black eye, and Jason going to his knees for Max to earn forgiveness the only way that ever seemed to work. The thought makes him shudder, and he lets out a shaky breath as he tries to keep himself firmly in the present. He won’t let Roy and Lian see him fall apart over his own damn memories.

It’s easier than it usually is, but Jason supposes that’s because he’s surrounded by people who make him feel safe. No one would dare to hurt him in front of a cop and his own father.

He manages a grin when Alfred sets the cake down in front of him, and he nudges Lian gently.

“You ready, kiddo?” He asks, and she nods eagerly and sucks in a deep breath, holding it until Jason does the same, and then letting it out along with him. Right before he does, he spares a thought for his wish, no matter how childish it makes him feel.

Please, he thinks, let this thing with Roy be something better.

He lets Lian get most of the candles herself, and doesn’t have to force his next smile, not with the way she’s giggling and clapping excitedly.

“Yay!” She chirps, and then shuffles around in his lap in order to throw her arms around him, “Happy birthday, Uncle Jay!”

Jason hugs her back, because what else is he supposed to do?

“Thank you, Lian,” he says, biting his lip as he looks up to meet Roy’s eyes, the fondness from before even more prominent in them now.

Lian is smiling brightly as she releases him and turns back around to face the table, and seems perfectly content to stay in his lap as Alfred whisks the cake away to cut it. Jason allows himself to relax, her weight against him comforting instead of restricting, and he finds himself smiling, too, as he looks around the room at his family.

Yeah, this is definitely the best birthday he’s had in a really long time.

Chapter Text

Jason slips away after dinner, needing to get some air and have a few minutes to himself. Tim doesn't join him this time, and Jason is grateful. Really, he figures, his brother probably just knew he was looking for solitude and not comfort or support. Tim’s been good at reading him, lately.

He takes a few minutes to just breath in the crisp evening air before lighting up a cigarette.

Roy and Lian seem to be fitting in so well with his family, and Jason finds himself feeling relieved that they'd already had some level of familiarity with each other for the most part. Still, he can't shake the feeling that something is going to happen to tip the balance out of his favour. Damian will threaten Roy again, or his parents will say something to scare him off, or he'll realize that he doesn't want to subject himself to the Wayne family's insanity more than he already has to as Dick's friend.

Or maybe it’ll be Jason himself he decides he doesn’t want to deal with.

And, God, Jason is attached, there's no point in denying it. His heart has already decided to go ahead and latch onto Roy, and he's not sure he'll be able to get through it if Roy decides he's not worth all the trouble.

Which means he has to figure out a way to keep him interested, preferably without freaking himself out too much in the process. He knows what the best option is, of course he does, but he's also self-aware enough to know there's no way he can go through with it, not without making everything worse - especially if what Tim had said about Roy not wanting to hurt him is actually true.

But, if not that, then how?

“Mind if I join you?”

Jason jumps slightly, too lost in his thoughts to have heard the doors opening, and he turns to see Roy standing in the doorway. He wets his lips, and tries to keep his heart from going into overdrive.

“Not at all,” he says finally, and reaches out to stub his cigarette out in the nearest ashtray.

Roy steps right up to him, and Jason does his best to keep the tension out of his back as Roy’s hands reach out to grip the railing on either side of him, effectively boxing him in. Jason tips his head back slightly to look up at Roy, licking his lips nervously when he sees that the other man is looking at them. He breathes out slowly, then leans up slightly, and Roy responds in kind, ducking his head down to close the space between them and sealing their lips together. He brings one of his hands to Jason’s side, and tugs him just the slightest bit closer, and Jason closes his eyes as he does his best to relax into the kiss.

He wants this, he has to remind himself, and allows it when Roy tries to deepen the kiss. Roy’s hand slips down to rest at the small of his back, and Jason wraps his own arms around Roy’s shoulders to press himself closer. He wonders if, chest to chest like this, Roy can feel how fast his heart is beating. Roy breaks the kiss after what feels like an eternity, but doesn’t let go of Jason, or even try to move away.

“Been wanting to do that all evening,” he murmurs, breath ghosting across Jason’s lips with how close they still are, and a shiver runs down Jason’s spine as he opens his eyes. Roy’s hand flexes on his back as if he wants to draw Jason even closer, some kind of instinct to keep him warm, and he brushes the tip of his nose lightly against Jason’s.

“Then do it again,” Jason manages to reply, and Roy doesn’t seem to need to be asked twice. He dips down again, and Jason feels like he’s being seared alive by the heat of his kiss. He twists one of his hands into the material of Roy’s shirt and drags him closer as he leans back against the railing instead of forwards into Roy, and Roy moves with him easily.

He’s burning up, Jason is sure of it, but he doesn’t break away. He can’t remember the last time he wanted to kiss someone with such ferocity, and for one fleeting moment he isn’t thinking about what happens next. It comes crashing back down on him when Roy suddenly moves to mouth at his neck instead, though, and Jason gasps, trying to catch his breath. It’s not like it doesn’t feel good, because it does - God, it does - but now that it’s startled his brain back online, Jason can’t seem to shut it back down.

He stills, save for the way he’s starting to shake, and is suddenly very, very aware of Roy's hand on his back, of the leg pressed close between both of his own, of the wooden railing at his back, trapping him between itself and Roy.

“R-Roy,” he manages to stammer, his grip on Roy’s shirt slackening, and there must be something in his voice, because Roy stops immediately, straightening up so he can look Jason in the eye. Jason averts his gaze, his cheeks flushed just as much with shame as with arousal, and his shoulders start to pull up defensively.

God, Roy's probably going to be angry with him. What was he thinking, starting something he knew he wouldn't want to follow through on? But maybe… Maybe he can still fix this. His gaze darts back up to Roy's face before he makes his decision and all but lunges forward to kiss him again.

Roy lets out a startled noise in the back of his throat, and sets a hand carefully on Jason's chest to nudge him back. Jason whines, distressed, as the kiss breaks.

“Hey,” Roy says softly, and when he reaches up to cup Jason’s face gently, he doesn’t let the younger man’s flinch deter him. Jason forces himself to go lax in response to his touch although he can't quite quell his shaking, and Roy guides him to look at him.

“S-sorry,” Jason says, “I'm sorry! I didn't- You can- I mean, we can-”

Roy frowns, except he looks concerned, not mad, and it doesn't make sense, but it does make Jason's heart do a weird little flip-flop.

“It’s okay, Jay,” he says calmly, “You don't have to do anything you don't want to. I'm sorry if that was too much.”

Jason shakes his head, and squeezes his eyes shut.

“Not your fault,” he mutters, and he doesn’t see the way Roy’s frown deepens, but he does feel it when he presses his forehead to Jason’s.

“Not yours either, then,” he says, and Jason just barely manages to choke down the disbelieving noise that wants to crawl out of his throat. He doesn't understand, why isn't Roy freaking out on him? Is this some kind of trick? Is Roy trying to play the long game?

“Jaybird,” Roy calls softly, pulling him back before he can spiral further, “Everything is okay.”

After a long moment, he manages a jerky nod, and Roy brushes his thumb over his bottom lip before letting his hand fall back to his own side and taking a step back.

He moves to stand next to Jason, leaning forward against the railing and looking up at the night sky, and Jason takes a few steadying breaths before opening his eyes and turning around as well. They’re not quite shoulder to shoulder, but they’re close enough that Jason can feel the body heat radiating from Roy, and he pushes down on the instinct to put more space between them.

“I hope they didn’t all gang up on you the moment I left,” he says after a few minutes have passed, and Roy chuckles.

“Nah,” he denies, “They’ve been a lot more chill than you led me to expect, actually.”

Jason reaches up to rub the back of his neck, and glances over at Roy as he says, “Yeah. I’m as surprised as you are about that. Makes me worried that they’re just biding their time.” He grips tightly to the railing with his other hand and adds, “We’re lucky Dames didn’t show up just now.”

Roy smirks, and leans over to nudge Jason’s arm lightly with his own, “No car between us, this time. Think he’d have gone for the throat or the balls?”

Jason laughs despite himself, and feels the last vestiges of tension leaving him.

“Both, probably.”

Roy winces, but there’s still a grin on his face, so Jason allows himself not to be too worried.

“We probably should go back in, though,” Jason says finally, and he hopes Roy doesn’t catch the note of insecurity in his voice, “Y’know, before Lian comes looking for you.”

Roy hums, and reaches out to put his hand over Jason’s.

“In a second,” he says, and Jason tilts his head, looking over at him questioningly. He tries to push back his fear, his worry that this is it, this is when Roy will establish whatever his punishment is going to be. Roy appears to hesitate for a moment before steeling himself.

“This is… good, right?” He asks, and when Jason just gives him a confused look, he clarifies, “This- Us, I mean. I know a month ain’t all that long but… I like you, Jay. And I’m pretty sure you like me, too.”

Jason blushes hard at that, but he nods even as his words get caught in his throat. He hopes Roy isn’t about to tell him he won’t wait much longer for him, that it’s time for Jason to prove how much he likes him.

“Right,” Roy says, and he coaxes Jason into turning his hand over so he can hold it properly, “So, then. I was thinking… Maybe I should have that talk with Lian soon. About us.”

It’s like emotional whiplash, the way his fear and anxiety are suddenly overtaken by a burst of surprise, and then hope.

“Roy,” Jason says softly, unable to fully mask the hope and trepidation in that one word, and Roy's expression softens as he squeezes Jason's hand.

“Jason,” he says, serious, “I want to be able to call you my boyfriend. My partner.”

Jason blinks a few times, embarrassed by the moisture in his eyes all of a sudden, and he squeezes Roy's hand in response.

“Yes,” he finally says, a tentative smile breaking across his face, “Please, I- I'd like that.”

Roy beams at him, and Jason can feel his own smile widening in response, his cheeks going pink when Roy lifts his hand to his lips and kisses the back of it before letting go.

“We should go back in, then, boyfriend,” Roy says, eyes bright with amusement, and Jason’s stomach does a stupid little fluttery thing like he’s a fucking middle-schooler again.

Jason hesitates for a few seconds, and then leans up to kiss Roy on the cheek before heading for the patio doors and saying, “Let’s hope they haven’t been plotting against us this whole time.”

Roy laughs, bright and carefree, and follows him inside.

The rest of the night goes well, and by the time everyone not staying at the Manor has taken off, Jason has almost shaken off the feeling of waiting for the other shoe to drop.

So, of course, he’s not entirely prepared for it when there’s a knock at his door and his mother steps into the room after he calls his permission for whoever is at the door to enter. He sits up straighter from where he’d been lounging in his bed when he see her, and sets aside the book he’d been about to start - the Emily Wilson translation of The Odyssey he’d been meaning to get his hands on for nearly a year now and Cass and Steph had given him earlier that evening for his birthday.

“What’s up?” He asks, aiming for casual and certain that he’s missed it by a mile given the way his mother’s eyebrows raise.

“I need an excuse to check in with my son?” She asks as she moves to sit on his bed, and Jason scoffs.

“If you’re calling it ‘checking in with,’ yeah, kinda,” he points out, and Talia tips her head in a slight nod of acquiescence, “So?”

Talia hesitates for a moment, reaching out to circle Jason’s ankle lightly with her hand; the touch is a lot more comforting than Jason cares to admit.

“I merely wish to know that you’re being safe,” she says after a moment, and Jason feels his cheeks burning.

“Mum,” he practically whines, embarrassed, and she looks up to meet his eyes seriously, causing Jason to swallow down any other protests he might have voiced otherwise.

“With your heart, Jason,” she tells him, a slightly pinched look on her face, “Primarily.”

Jason sighs, and feels himself relax again as she strokes her thumb against his ankle bone.

“As safe as I can be,” he mutters eventually, gaze dropping as he focuses on tracing the pattern on his comforter with his fingertips, “I’m- I know it’s been kind of… sudden-” Talia makes a quiet noise at that, but Jason keeps pressing on, “-but it’s not… We’re not- He hasn’t done anything to make me doubt him. I just…”

Jason shudders, and cuts himself off, withdrawing a little bit, and Talia lets go of him to allow it.

“It’s normal to feel threatened,” she says after a while, “Even by someone who has made no threats themself.”

Jason lets out a stuttering breath, and gives a small nod.

“Yeah,” he murmurs.

Silence falls between them for a few minutes, and Jason eventually settles back down, pressing back shyly into his mother’s space until she reaches out for him again, a soft smile curling her lips.

“Roy seems… kind,” she says eventually, breaking the silence, “And Lian is delightful.”

Jason smiles, and ducks his head slightly, “Yeah. Yeah, they are.”

Talia hums, and then pats Jason’s ankle gently before letting go and standing up.

“Should he prove otherwise,” she starts, expression once again serious as she holds Jason’s gaze, “I expect you to tell me this time.”

Shame and guilt coil low in Jason’s gut as he ducks his head, and he swallows heavily. His mouth is too dry to speak, all of a sudden, but he manages a tight nod, though he can’t bring himself to look up at his mother to read her expression. Still, he breathes a shaky sigh of relief when she drops a kiss to the top of his head before crossing back to the bedroom door.

“أحبك أمي,” he manages to mumble when she twists the doorknob, though he still doesn’t look up.

“Tt,” Talia scoffs, though the noise is far more fond than it is annoyed, “.احبك يا ابني”

The door closes with a quiet click behind her, and Jason takes a few calming breaths before reaching for his book and settling in for an hour or two of reading before he calls it a night.