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Three Songs of Shattering

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I.

Jason doesn’t see him much, and when he does it's usually under the cover of night, running and jumping and flying through the air as Nightwing. It feels like some kind of magic as Jason watches him gracefully flip and fall, only to seemingly turn the world upside down as he defies gravity with his rebound. It's got to be some sort of magic, because despite the garish blue and yellow of his costume, and the godawful garrulous quips, Nightwing somehow blends seamlessly into the Gotham night.

It’s true that the urban nights aren’t exactly pitch black, not with the endless city lights forever overpowering the twinkle of stars. Maybe that's why Jason can’t help but think that Nightwing fits perfectly into the nocturnal skyline, like he was made not to blend into the darkness, but to dance along the points of light. In that respect, he hasn't flown far from the Robin mantle he abandoned. Nightwing still shines a light into the shadows.

It's a little jarring though, when for once, Jason actually sees him during the day. It's just a few weeks into the spring semester, and to no one’s surprise (Jason thinks), he’s gotten himself into trouble at school again. It wasn’t that he was trying to start a fight. In fact, Jason had just been hiding in the far corner of the schoolyard during lunch period, enjoying his second readthrough of Emma as he prepared an essay, but Marko Roma was at it again. The other kid just didn’t have any appreciate for carefully crafted wit and nuanced humor, because he rolled up just as Jason was fully engrossed in the part where Emma relayed her suspicions of a reprehensible romance between Jane Fairfax and --

“Hey, isn’t that a book for girls?” Marko snatches the book right out of his hands.

Stupid, Jason thinks. Marko has a whole posse of hanger-ons behind him. That’s not something Robin would have missed, but at school he’s just a regular boy, and he was so focused on the story that he didn’t notice the others approach. Jason tries to be the bigger man, getting up with the intention of leaving and finding himself another spot in a far off corner where jerks like Marko couldn't find him.

“It’s not a book just for girls, dimwit,” Jason says as he makes to grab the book back. “It's a literary classic.”

However, Marko is older and taller, and he dangles the book high above Jason’s head. “Says the pansy who doesn’t have any friends!”

Marko laughs and chucks the book at his face. Jason catches it just in time to see Marko take a swing at him. He ducks and reflexively counters with an uppercut, catching Marko right in the nose. He goes down like a brick.

There’s blood on Jason’s hand. “Shit,” he says. He didn’t even think he’d hit Marko that hard. He wasn’t even that angry, but fighting hard and dirty was ingrained in him from living on the streets. Everyone was always bigger than you, faster than you, and hit harder than you. If you didn’t get your shots in when you could -- a preemptive strike -- it was likely you were gonna get the shit kicked out of you, or worse, get yourself kidnapped and forced into a trafficking ring. Jason lived with knowing those consequences for too long. It didn't just go away after moving into a fancy manor.

He knows Bruce isn’t going to be happy about this. He’s going to be pissed. Jason was already on thin ice after the incident with Garzonas falling off the balcony. He knows Bruce doesn’t believe him. He knows he's probably rethinking taking Jason in. What if he realizes this was all a mistake?

On impulse, Jason runs for it, grabbing his book and his bag and making a jump over the schoolyard fence. He knows he’s being irrational -- that one sucker punch with a kid at school isn’t going to land him back on the streets again, but he’s feeling overwhelmed suddenly. He doesn’t want to think about facing Bruce’s disappointment at the moment. And some of the things Marko said hit something uncomfortable inside him. It's true that Jason doesn’t have any friends. He spends most of his time reading… and most other boys his age aren’t holing up in a corner reading Jane Austen.

He runs for a while, making toward more familiar territory -- namely Crime Alley and its surrounding neighborhoods. Jason dodges the cameras and public transportation in favor of hustling it on foot through the backstreets. It takes him at least an hour to get to his destination, because Bruce had deposited him at a school with a bunch of rich kids on the other side of town, far away from the riff raff of lower Gotham. He can’t blame Bruce, really. Lower Gotham is a horrible place, and it's dangerous, but it's where Jason still feels the most at home. He hops a few more fences, skirting the barb wire and wrought iron grills, and manages to make it into Robinson Park.

It's only then that he slows down. The park is often littered with needles and garbage, and he knows to avoid the homeless camp near the drainage creek. Instead he makes his way toward the center of the park. Here, in the middle of the day, it's actually quiet and peaceful. The blaring horns of traffic and the hustle and bustle of people trying to get from one place to another suddenly feels far far away as Jason focuses on the sound of rustling leaves. He can hear birds chirping as they flit around in the foliage.

It's early spring, and there are pink and white blossoms covering the branches of many of the trees, shining bright in the sun. Some of the blossoms shake loose in the slight breeze and fall to the ground, decorating the undergrowth in a soft blanket of petals.

Jason parks himself underneath one of the trees, pulls his knees up to his chest and tries to figure out what to do next. Should he go back to the manor? Alfred and Bruce would likely have gotten a call from the school by now. They were probably already on their way to the school to find him. Would Bruce ground him? Would he ground Robin? Would he take Robin away? Jason doesn’t know what he’d do if that happened, because if he wasn’t Robin, then what use would he be to Batman? What use would he be to Bruce?

“Mind if I sit here?” A voice suddenly interrupts his train of thought, and Jason nearly jumps out of his skin. He hadn’t heard anyone approach -- he’d been listening, not wanting to make that mistake again after Marko got the jump on him, but when he looks up to see a familiar figure standing over him, it's suddenly clear why he didn’t hear any footsteps -- it's Dick.

“How’d you find me?” Jason says. Dick doesn’t wait for permission and settles himself beside Jason under the tree.

“GPS in your cell phone,” Dick points to Jason’s backpack.

“Oh.” Jason didn’t think to ditch the bag. Hanging onto your belongings with a death grip was also part and parcel to his instincts from living on the streets. “What do you want? Where’s Bruce?”

“He got called away on urgent business,” Dick says, which implies either Batman or League work. “Alfred gave me a ring. I was already coming into town anyway.”

“Oh.” Jason’s a little disappointed that Bruce didn’t come. He’s also not sure if he should take it as a sign that Bruce is beginning to lose interest in keeping him around. And why didn’t Alfred come? Jason had grown very fond of the old butler. He spent almost as much time helping him around the manor as he did with Bruce as Robin.

Dick suddenly reaches out and ruffles Jason’s hair.

“Hey!” Jason yelps, a little shocked at the contact and immediately bats Dick’s hand away.

Dick only laughs. “There were petals in your hair.” He smiles brightly and points at the litter of white petals around them.

“There’re petals in your hair too,” Jason returns the gesture by grabbing a fistful of petals and throwing them at Dick. It doesn’t work very well. Flower petals aren’t exactly aerodynamic like a batarang, and the petals at only propelled a few inches into the air before they're fluttering slowly back down to the ground.

Jason is unperturbed and tries again, and they both laugh as each of them simultaneously try to give the other a flowery version of a noogie with handfuls of petals. Dick finally tackles Jason, pinning his hands to his sides, and Jason looks back up at Dick -- really looks at him now that his reverie of sulking had been broken, and Dick is smiling warmly and his eyes seem an uncanny shade of brilliant blue. Jason can feel the heat of Dick’s body as he leans over him. His black hair is slightly tousled from their recent shenanigans, and all around them, the petals are still gently drifting down in the soft breeze. They catch in Dick’s hair, and Jason suddenly has the urge to reach his hands up and brush them away. Slower this time… the thought comes unbidden that he wants to run his fingers through Dick’s hair….

Jason’s breath hitches slightly, because in that moment he suddenly feels overwhelmingly hot. Jason’s not blind. He’s got eyes and he’s seen Dick a few times at this point, but this is the first time he’s seen him quite this close. Dick's face is only inches away as he hovers over Jason. There’s something about Dick’s mischievous grin that Jason finds wholly captivating, and Jason would be a fool to deny that Dick Grayson is anything but breathtakingly beautiful.

Jason is uncomfortable. Really uncomfortable. His hands are still pinned at his sides, and with a last ditch effort, he pushes Dick off of him. He quickly grabs his bag and stomps away.

“Wait!” Dick runs after him, his expression that of bewilderment. “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing!”

But Dick is fast. Lightning fast. If Jason didn't know better, he'd think Dick was some sort of speedster, because suddenly Dick is in front of him, trying to block his path.

"Sorry," Dick placates, "I was just, you know, roughhousing. Did I hurt you?"

Jason's not sure how to respond, so instead he says, "I should get back to the manor."

"Okay," Dick goes with it, and much to Jason's relief doesn't push any further at why Jason is so suddenly eager to get home. "How about I give you a ride home?" he adds.

Jason can't think of a good reason to say no. Wayne Manor is all the way out in Bristol. It would take him hours to walk home or he would have to take a cab, and the latter option would show a level of spite toward Dick he honestly wasn't feeling. So he follows Dick out of the park only to find that instead of the car he was expecting, Dick is on a motorcycle.

"Hop on," Dick says, as he tosses Jason a helmet from a bag slung over his shoulder. Then he hops onto the bike himself.

Jason catches the helmet, but hesitates. Dick wants him to ride pillion, which means Jason would get on behind him and hold his hands around Dick's waist. Jason looks at the way Dick straddles the bike, glancing briefly at his rear and then how he's gripping the seat with his thighs.

And then his mind is racing through all sorts of uncomfortable thoughts as his heart threatens to thump out of his chest. Jason contemplates just dropping the helmet and running, but his pride won't let him, and Dick seems completely clueless to his discomfort. Hardening his resolve, Jason sucks in a deep breath and jams the helmet on to hide his reddening face. Then he climbs onto the back of the bike.

Jason scoots back as far as he can, putting as much space as possible between his crotch and Dick's ass. There isn't much he can do about his thighs brushing against Dick's hips however, even as he tries to gingerly put his hands around Dick's waist.

But then Dick reaches down and takes a hold of Jason's hands, and then firmly wraps them around his middle. Jason almost -- just almost -- yelps, but then Dick is saying, "You gotta hang on tight or you'll fall off. And then Bruce'll kill me." He revs the engine a couple times, and then guns it.

It's a weird feeling. The rumble of the engine between his legs and the almost intimate position and close proximity of Dick's body. Jason didn't have time to dwell on it however, because within a split second he is literally holding on for dear life. Dick is practically flying through the streets, taking hairpin turns and popping wheelies. He crashes through a construction site and gears up a ramp, sending them flying through the air before landing back on the street and speeding away.

After the initial shock of it, Jason's natural daredevil streak kicks in, and he starts to enjoy the thrill. It's clear that Dick is doing it on purpose. Dick knows these streets as well as Jason, and he's avoiding the cops and cameras as he takes Jason on a full blown joyride.

The joy part of the ride is working. Jason let's himself loosen up a little, more than once letting out a whoop or a laugh as Dick does another jump or skid or corkscrew turn. It's fun and exhilarating, and Jason finds himself itching to try the tricks himself at some point in the future.

Eventually, Dick makes their way out of the city and towards Wayne Manor, taking the more scenic route home. Jason watches the world fly by, almost forgetting what led to Dick showing up in the first place.

Reality starts to weigh heavily again though as they approach the Manor, and Jason starts stewing again. He can't help but think again about Bruce's disappointment in him. He can't help but remember the incident with Two-Face where Bruce called him out for taking it too far, or Garzonas, when Bruce didn't believe him….

He thinks about when Dick gave him his old Robin suit, and how much Jason had wanted to live up to the honor. He thinks about how he'd met Dick's teammates on the Teen Titans a few weeks ago, and how much Dick's friends had believed and trusted and loved him.

He thinks about the incident no more than an hour ago, when Dick had leaned over him and smiled so warmly. He seemed so genuinely happy….

Something inside Jason turns sour. It doesn’t seem fair that someone should be that beautiful. It's not fair that someone is actually that perfect. It doesn’t seem right that someone should have such a wealth of friends and people who love him. It doesn’t seem possible that Dick could have gone from just a regular boy like Jason himself, running after Batman in the night as Robin, to Nightwing -- a first class hero leading an incredible team of the most powerful and dedicated superheroes anyone could imagine. His team has faith in him. They believe in him, and they follow him.

It doesn’t seem fair at all, when in comparison, Jason has… nothing. Nothing with a big capital N. Even Bruce was losing faith.

As soon as Dick pulls up to the Manor, Jason is immediately off the bike, shoving the helmet back at Dick and running through the door. He bolts upstairs and into his room, slamming the door shut behind him. He doesn't want to see Dick anymore, because seeing him makes something inside Jason hurt, and it's too much. Dick is everything Jason will never be, and everything he can't have. Dick has everything Jason doesn't, and Jason wants him, because he's gorgeous and smart and perfect, but Jason knows more than anything that Dick is never going to look at him the same way.

 

II.

It's not the worst garden party he's been to, Dick thinks. The ambiance is in fact very nice, with the spring flowers in full bloom -- red and pink, yellow and orange, green and blue -- a full spectrum of color, bright and brilliant, as if the gaiety of the Gotham Green had sprung from the park's very flowers. Even the trees were bursting with pink and white blossoms -- rows of cherry trees in full bloom line the rows of banquet tables.

"Mmmm. Check out Thigh Guy other there," Steph sips gingerly at a flute of some bubbly drink. It's probably champagne, Dick thinks, but he won't tell Bruce that. They're supposed to be undercover, posing as guests at the wedding of the mayor's daughter to the grandson of the Vitti mafia's head. It wasn't hard to get invitations with Dick and Tim as the media-darling heirs of the Wayne fortune. The operation didn't actually require three of them (Damian had noped out early on and Bruce was away with the League). They only needed to plant trackers and listening devices on a few select targets making deals that night, but Steph had perked up at the word "party," and Tim had succumbed to her appeals to let her tag along. He RSVPed with a plus one.

"Whew," Steph fans herself with her free hand. She's wearing a strapless purple gown and the springtime weather is pleasantly moderate. It would be hard pressed for anyone to call it a hot day. "Maybe I should get myself a rent-a-cop too, but somebody's gotta tell that poor boy to lose the handlebar mustache." She lets out a little sigh and continues scanning the crowd.

Dick looks over at the security worker Steph had indicated, and whoa. She was right. The guy is wearing a pair of fitted tactical pants, tucked into military boots, and Dick wholeheartedly agrees -- those pants hug the man's thighs in all the right ways. It makes him feel a little warm, his own fitted pants suddenly feeling a bit uncomfortable. Dick's eyes make its way upward, noting the sidearms tucked into holsters (strapped against those marvelously muscled thighs), the black vest stating "SECURITY" in bold white letters, and the loosely cropped black hair. He can't make out much of the man's face however, because he is indeed sporting the most egregious of mustaches, along with a pair of large dark sunglasses. Dick takes a long drink from his glass. It's only filled with soda, and the bubbles sting and tingle as he gulps it down.

Tim sidles over, looking surprisingly unafflicted at Stephanie's interest in another man, given they used to date. "Hey," he says as he follows their line of sight, "he looks kinda familiar. Isn't that Jason?"

Dick nearly spits out his drink, because yikes, that absolutely is Jason in a horrible enough disguise that Dick couldn't immediately recognize him. He chokes and sputters as he realizes he was just drooling over Jason's thighs.

"Are you okay?" Tim asks as he pats Dick's back. "I'd say drink some water but apparently that was the problem."

"Yeah, fine," Dick manages to clear his throat and straighten up. Both Tim and Steph are looking at him, waiting for him to take the lead on how to deal with Jason's sudden appearance. Dick turns his eyes back to Jason and notices another two figures, standing just a few paces away -- a tall redhead with her hair knotted up in a bun, and a large burly man wearing a brown fedora hat. They're both wearing similar tactical gear as Jason, with black vests emblazoned with SECURITY. It looks like Jason's not alone. He brought his team, Artemis and Bizarro, which means he's on a mission. Best course of action, Dick decides, is to simply talk to him.

Dick takes a deep breath and walks over. He's not exactly sure why his stomach feels a bit fluttery, but he can't stop thinking about the way the fabric of Jason's pants are wonderfully taut about his hips, how it seems to stretch and flex with his slight movements, and how it gathers around the bulge of his groin… aaaaand time to focus! Dick tears his eyes away from Jason's pants (where in the world does he get pants like that?) and makes eye contact with him as he approaches.

Jason, for his part, doesn't seem surprised in the slightest that Dick is making his way over. He merely raises an eyebrow, an arch above the rim of his sunglasses, and waits. As soon as Dick is within earshot, he calls out in an exaggerated southern drawl, "Can Ah help you with somethin' sir?"

Dick plasters on the best of his playboy smiles, "I have a security question I'm hoping you can help me with. Wayne Enterprise stuff, so I'm hoping we can go someplace... private?" Dick puts on what he hopes is an obviously fake drunken leer -- his public persona as the world's most cultivated bimbo, with the utmost classless taste, allows for him to make passes at the help. He hooks an arm around Jason's and drags him into a secluded corner behind a garden shed, as Artemis and Bizarro look on in amusement.

"What are you doing here?" Dick hisses at him as soon as they're out of sight. He maneuvers them so Dick's back is against the wall of the shed, with Jason's larger frame boxing him in. If anyone happens upon them, they would assume Dickie Grayson was engaged in tryst, and hopefully leave them to their privacy.

Jason follows Dick's lead and braces his hands on either side of Dick's head and leans in close. "Half the Unified Crime families are here. There are at least six different deals going down, including two with the corrupt mayor's office. I'm gathering intel. What about you?"

"Same," Dick nods, a little surprised at how close Jason's face is. He still has the stupid shades on so Dick can't see his eyes, and he's close enough that Dick can see the fibers of the fake mustache, curling at the corner of Jason's mouth as if to follow the curve of his smirk. Dick shifts a little uncomfortably at the same time Jason seems to be adjusting his stance. A knee brushes against Jason's inner thigh, mostly on accident. Probably.

Jason freezes a moment, and then abruptly backs up to give Dick a little more room. His face looks suddenly pinker than it did a moment ago. Huh.

"Anyway, maybe we can exchange interest--, I mean intel later," Jason stumbles over his words.

"Yeah, call me later. I mean, send me your info. I mean intel." Dick really isn't any better. He struggles to find a graceful exit, because at the moment he's not really sure what the heck is happening between them, but Jason is still standing there as if waiting for some sort of cue. The dark sunglasses and the ridiculous mustache hide much of his expression, so Dick is a little unsure if Jason is as thrown off as he is, or if it's all in Dick's head.

It feels like it would be awkward to simply slink back to the party without keeping up appearances of a tryst, though. Would it be too much to ask Jason to ruffle his hair and rough up his shirt?

Fortunately (or rather unfortunately), Dick is saved from any potential embarrassment when a scream pierces the moment. It's quickly followed on with more shouting as some sort of commotion breaks out on the Gotham Green.

Jason's immediately running toward it, he's already in disguise as hired security, but Dick takes a moment to strip down to the Nightwing suit he has under his clothes. By the time he's glued his domino mask on and emerged from behind the building, there's already a full fight on -- Mammoth and his sister Shimmer, known villains to the Titans, are attacking the wedding party, likely hired by political and gang rivals who are unhappy with the alliance.

Many of the wedding guests are running away from the fight in all directions. Others, probably the mafioso, have pulled out weapons and begun firing on their attackers. Tim and Steph have already donned their costumes and joined the fray, subduing the armed guests as Artemis and Bizarro, still dressed as security, take down Shimmer.

Jason joins in without hesitation, firing potshots at the larger of the two villains, Mammoth, and attempting to draw him away from the fleeing crowd.

"Didn't anyone ever tell you nobody likes a wedding crasher!" Jason quips as lets off a volley of bullets.

"Hnnng! Black Mask says hello," Mammoth grunts as he advances.

Jason's play at leading him away from the crowd is working, but Mammoth is a beast of a man, and surprisingly quick despite his three hundred pounds of bulk. He overtakes Jason in two quick bounds, and even with Jason rolling to evade, Mammoth manages to catch him by the ankle. He yanks Jason up into the air, and flings him headlong into the line of trees. Jason manages a half turn in the air before he crashes against a tree trunk.

Bizarro and Artemis are promptly intervening, tackling Mammoth to the ground, while Dick makes his way to Jason's aid. He's crumpled in a heap below the tree as Dick approaches.

The tree trunk is cracked from the impact, and cherry blossoms are raining down. They collect over Jason's fallen form like a blanket of white snow. He's unresponsive as Dick turns him onto his back. There's blood smeared across his temple.

"Jason!" Dick exclaims as he removes the large black shades that are now cracked. He pulls off the ridiculous mustache as well, and Jason looks alarmingly pale. Dick reaches his fingers into Jason's hair to feel for contusions, but besides a few cuts there are none. Dick let's a sigh of relief. If he had hit the tree head first they would be in serious trouble.

Below him, Jason slowly begins to blink his eyes open. As Dick looks down at him he's reminded of a memory from long ago, when he had found Jason ditching school in Robinson Park. Dick had playfully roughhoused him onto the ground, and had leaned over Jason just like he was now, under the bloom of a cherry tree.

Except Jason wasn't a scrappy kid who wore Dick's old colors anymore. Now, without the articles of his disguise, Dick notes Jason's striking features -- the bright intensity of his blue eyes, the symmetry in the angles of his face, the strong lines of his jaw….

He's handsome, the thought comes to Dick, and Jason's not a boy anymore, he's a fully grown man. Dick reaches down again, this time to brush the blood-stained blossoms from Jason's hair.

Jason bats his hand away, his eyes wide as he takes in a sharp breath. Then he's squirming away out from under Dick. He looks… uncomfortable.

Dick backs away as Jason gets up onto his feet, body language broadcasting loudly that he doesn't want help.

He taps a comm in his ear, "Artemis, is everyone down? Okay. Let's get out of here."

There's a whoosh of air, and Bizarro appears, Artemis hanging onto his back. He pauses long enough to pick Jason up, then whisks him and Artemis away into the skies.

Jason is gone, along with the boy he used to be.

 

III.

"Hahahaha!" Someone's laughing loudly a distance away, and Jason sits up with a jolt.

"Haha!" That laugh again, and Jason realizes he can feel his heart pounding in his ears, but it's not the Joker. The voice is familiar, but it's not the Joker, he tells himself.

The pounding of his heart subsides, and Jason takes a moment to soak in his surroundings -- he's in some kind of hospital room. There’s an IV stuck in his arm and various monitors taped to his chest. His left arm is immobilized and in a cast. There's a sharp pain just below his neck at the top of his chest -- broken clavicle, he thinks. His torso is bare, and Jason looks down to see that his chest is basically one massive bruise. Ouch. It hurts every time he moves.

"Haha!" Someone laughs again, and Jason discerns that it's coming from outside the hall, probably a room or two over.

"Well I'm glad you're both okay, even if the two of you are idiots," the voice says, to which another voice replies, "Gee, thanks."

Jason recognizes the voices. Roy and Dick. Jason also remembers what probably landed him here in his current state -- Dick had asked for the Outlaws' help on a mission with the Titans, claiming they needed the extra hands to complete a rescue of meta children from Bialya. The last thing Jason remembers is Dick springing into action to shield a kidnapped girl from gunfire with his body. Jason had subsequently stepped in to shield Dick. He remembers the force of the bullets hitting his body armor, and the crack of a bullet pinging off his helmet before he blacked out. His armor could disperse the impact of most high powered handguns, but that didn't mean they couldn't still deal non-penetrative damage, hence the bruising and the broken collarbone.

Jason carefully removes the IV line and the monitors before searching the room for his gear. He can’t find his shirt, jacket or guns, but he finds his shattered helmet and boots. The helmet is a goner, the face plate is missing and what’s left is hardly salvageable, but he slips the boots on. He doesn’t bother to lace them as it hurts too much to bend over, then gingerly makes his way toward the window.

It doesn’t open, but upon checking out the view Jason realizes he’s higher up than he thought. Much higher. He’s not in a hospital, but in some kind of tower. Jason recognizes the scenery and the structure of the building. He’s in the Titans Tower.

Damn. Dick and his team must have brought him here after he blacked out.

He doesn’t want to be here. He hasn’t been in the tower since before he died, and that was literally a lifetime ago. He doesn’t want to be in the headquarters of the team he was never quite good enough to join, and with the Golden Boy he was never able to live up to. The memories of what could have been are painful, and Jason had only agreed to help the Titans because it provided a cover to save the children -- the Outlaws could be seen breaking past the borders of a sovereign nation while the Titans could not. It should have been quick, and Jason isn't keen on spending more time than necessary playing second fiddle to Dick's friends.

Though as he thinks about it, things have been weird with Dick lately. He’s been friendlier, reaching out and making overtures that he never had before. He's shown up uninvited on several of Jason's patrols lately. He even showed up at dinner at the Outlaws' base once, because Bizarro (bless his soul) found Dick wandering around nearby. All of this happened since that stupid incident where they ran into Dick and the others at the wedding on the Gotham Green. Jason’s not sure what to make of it, and he’s ashamed to admit that some small part of him that hasn't fully outgrown his crush welcomes it. As much as he hates it, deep down, Jason still feels a yearning for the other man, and Jason can’t help but relish a little at the attention.

A bigger part of him is suspicious as hell though. The Bats never reach out unless they want something, so the best solution, Jason decides, is to avoid any future complications by avoiding Dick altogether. It was a mistake to take the mission, one that he won’t make again. All he needs to do now is extricate himself from the tower without anyone knowing, and find Artemis and Bizarro and jet.

"Dude, no!” Someone laughs down the hall. It's Roy again. “You’re doing it wrong,” he says. “He'll never eat that. Here, give it to me.”

It sounds like Roy and Dick are preoccupied with something, so Jason takes the opportunity to sneak down the hall. He remembers enough of the building layout to know that if he can get to the floor with the living quarters, he can find an open window. He silently makes his way into the stairwell, gripping the railing more than he wants. He feels dizzy and a little nauseous, and Jason vaguely recognizes that he’s probably concussed.

Jason does manage to find the living quarters of the tower though, and he ambles toward where he remembers they used to reserve a room for guests. The door is unlocked, fortunately, and Jason keeps the lights off as he makes his way to the window. It's hard to slide it open one-handed but he eventually succeeds, broken clavicle be damned.

He pokes his head outside. The wind this high up is chilled and fast, whipping his bangs into his face.

Jason fumbles at his belt, and thankfully he still has his grapple. He’s holding it in his good hand, with one leg out the window and straddling the sill, trying to figure out what part of the tower structure would provide a good anchor, when the light blinks on.

“Going somewhere?” Dick is standing in the doorway of the guest room. He has his arm in a matching sling, and his expression is an interesting mix of amusement and apprehension.

“Just checking out the view,” Jason shrugs, and then immediately regrets it. The movement is just exactly wrong, and a sharp spike of pain stabs through his neck and torso. He can’t help but let out a gasp, involuntarily curling into himself and nearly teetering out the window.

Dick is by his side suddenly, pulling him back into the room with his good arm and setting Jason down on the guest bed. It's more of a relief than Jason wants to allow, but his head has started spinning and he can do little more than groan as Dick pushes him to lie on his back. Dick plops down next to him, a little too hard and the mattress shakes, eliciting another grunt of pain.

“Sorry!" Dick says guiltily, but then adds, "Seriously, Jay? You were going to grapple out the twenty-seventh floor window, totally concussed and with only one good arm and a broken collarbone? You’re not even wearing a shirt!”

It does sound a little stupid when Dick puts it that way, but Jason will jump out the window before he's going to admit that Dick is right. Instead he says, “What happened to your arm?”

“It's funny,” Dick puts on a smile as he looks down at his cast and sling, “a bullet ricocheted off your helmet and hit me in the humerus. Get it? Humorous? Funny?" He waggles his brows for emphasis.

“Haha,” Jason says blandly. “That’s lame as shit.”

“Yeah, well so is trying to sneak out before I can thank you for saving my life.” Dick scoots close to him, putting his good arm on the bed to lean slightly over Jason. "I'm sorry you got hurt in the process."

He follows up by patting Jason gently on the thigh. He knows it's just Dick being his usual touchy-feely self, but it's unexpected, especially when rather than lifting his hand once he's finished, Dick lets his hand linger. He even gives Jason a friendly squeeze.

Jason's mind goes blank for a second. It's not that he doesn't like the contact, its that he's not quite sure how to react. Dick's still leaning over him, looking expectant, and Jason realizes Dick is waiting for some kind of response.

Jason just says the first thing that comes to mind, "If you'd wear something that did more than just cover your ass, then I wouldn't have to save your ass." He's not quite sure why he said that out loud, but he can never think of Dick's ass without harkening back to the embarrassment of his pre-death years. He can feel the heat creeping into his cheeks. Jason's still not wearing a shirt, and he's suddenly feeling exposed and vulnerable. There isn't much he can do to save face though, other than change the subject -- "And I wasn't sneaking out. I was just going to find Artemis and Biz.”

"Well I can help with that. They’re downstairs with the rest of the crew," Dick says cheerfully.

"Oh." Traitors, he thinks, but then snaps back to the present because he's noticing that Dick has leaned in even closer. It's probably the concussion, but Jason is confused on why that might be.

He's not quite sure what's happening, and when he gets confused, he gets defensive, so he says, "What are you trying to do, Dick? You've been showing up a lot lately. And then this mission, bringing me back here… what are you at?" Jason tries to make it sound indignant, but his tone breaks down halfway through. "If you've got some stupid idea of making up for lost time, you can forget it. I'm not some dumb kid who needs bonding time. That kid died a long time ago."

Jason huffs and pushes himself up onto his one good elbow, making to roll the rest of the way off the bed, but Dick stops him by giving his leg another squeeze.

"You're doing the same thing you know." Dick is patting his leg again. "That time I brought you home on my bike, you ran like the wind as soon as we got back to the manor. You were just a kid, and it didn't occur to me back then why you'd be embarrassed."

Another quick squeeze. Dick's hand continues to linger.

Jason's pretty sure he's doing a bang up job of coming up with new reasons to be embarrassed. His body, particularly his groin, thinks it knows what Dick is implying, but his brain seems to have hit a wall. His mouth is hanging open, and he's probably making a pretty good impression of a fish. When Jason finally forms a sentence, the words that come out are, "I'm not a kid anymore."

"Exactly," Dick grins. "So there's no need to be embarrassed."

"Are we talking about the same thing?" Jason puts his hand over Dick's, still lingering atop his thigh.

"I hope so." Dick leans in again, and this time Jason's brain catches up to the movement of his body.

They meet each other halfway in a kiss.