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Pretty Little Alpha

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The first time he sees him, Jason is nursing a beer at his favourite bar, occasionally pressing the cool glass against his cheek which is growing painfully swollen after taking a punch from the goon in the alley outside.

The other patrons keep giving him looks, uttering a snide comment or two, but the burly bartender behind the counter doesn’t give him any notice except to refill his beer; this is his favourite bar for a reason. He hasn’t been kicked out yet, mostly because he’s managed to keep the fights outside instead of in, and the manager looks on him with a grateful eye because of that. Either that or he just doesn’t give a shit, as long as Jason’s paying.

He figures he’ll stay for another ten minutes. He definitely deserves to have a little R&R, even if it is in a cheap bar deep in the shitty pits of Gotham. Really, he managed to dismantle a good number of Black Mask’s eyes and ears throughout the city today, he thinks he deserves a little treat.

A group of kids walk in at one point—college kids, going by the large yellow GCU on one of their varsity jackets—and sit at the far corner of the bar, looking painfully out of place with their satchels containing sleek laptops slinged over their shoulders and clean baby faces. No one bothers checking their IDs, the bartender barely gives a glance as they walk in.

Jason does though, only because they stick out ridiculously and he finds it amusing, but as his eyes brush over their group, his gaze snags on one of them—a boy who must be barely older than twenty, his face soft and hair long, a little quirk to his lips as he’s dragged along to the table by his friend. His eyes are the most arresting thing about him—they’re cold and blue, and his gaze is so sharp that they make such a striking contrast to the rest of his face. And—

Oh. He’s staring back.

Jason feels a little jolt at the feeling of those eyes on him, something arresting like static zapping across every inch of his skin, so he turns away quickly and goes back to drinking his beer and minding his own business.

He’s a pretty little thing, Jason decides, but not pretty enough to keep his attention. He doesn’t give him another thought after that.

Once his cheek is nice and numb—and red and splotchy if the stained mirror behind the bar is anything to go by—he calls the bartender over for another refill.

A sudden yell from outside makes the other patrons standing by the bar jump—Jason guesses that the asshole he left in the dumpster finally woke up. The bartender gives him a little stink eye as he tops up Jason’s glass, and Jason gives him a small acknowledging nod, taking the look to mean that he expects Jason to deal with it.

The door slams open and a middle-aged man, pot-bellied and rancid, stumbles in, cursing and spitting. There’s a nice brown stain on the back of his tank top, freshly soaked up from the juices stewing at the bottom of the dumpster, and Jason wrinkles his nose at the thought of getting anywhere near the acrid smell. The man takes a long look around the bar, blinking hard to focus his gaze, eyes swivelling around until they land on Jason and he points straight at him.

“You!” he booms, startling the handful of patrons who didn’t see him come in.

Somewhere in the back of Jason’s mind, in the corner of his eye, he registers the college boy staring at him again, and somewhere even deeper down he gets the urge to make a show of the ensuing fight, to do something impressive, but he buries such thoughts and makes a conscious effort not to look at the boy anymore.

Before the asshole can march up to the bar, Jason takes his beer and sculls it, letting the froth paint his upper lip. A lot of it manages to drip onto his shirt, but he’s mostly drunk so he can be excused if his coordination is not up to par.

All the while, the man is shouting obscenities at him, things that would probably make Jason embarrassed if he weren’t so irritated instead, and some of the patrons are huffing under their breath for Jason to hurry it up and get out.

Jason puts his glass down once he’s done, slaps three twenties on the bar top, strides over and gives one big shove to get the guy and himself through the door and out of the bar. The guy trips over his own feet and falls, giving a sharp yelp when he lands on his elbows.

“You can’t seriously be asking for a round two,” Jason says reproachfully, hands on his hips as he looks down at him.

The man whimpers when Jason raises a hand, curling into himself in fear. Jason frowns. This isn’t even fun, it’s just pathetic.

Just as he’s about to call the guy a cab, he’s startled by a strong grip clamping down on his upper arm. He spins around, albeit a little clumsily, and comes face-to-face with a huge man— huge as in what he might imagine Bane’s cousin to look like huge —flanked by his two buddies, equally as monstrous.

“He tellin’ the truth?” the largest asks, jerking his head towards the man on the ground. “You really an omega?”

Jason makes a face. He doesn’t appreciate a lot of people knowing about his status, and this is one of the reasons why. People tend to avoid him looking the way he is, and when they find out he’s an omega—well, then they start getting invasive. He is incredibly unlucky that some asshole walking past happened to catch one whiff of his exposed, unsuppressed scent and started yelling it to the world. Maybe when he’s dealt with these guys he should throw the asshole into the dumpster again instead of calling him a cab. “Do I look like one?” he asks.

The thug’s nostrils flare, scenting the air. “It’s all over your clothes.” His friends nod in agreement. He reaches a large hand out, gesturing towards Jason’s outfit, and Jason takes an involuntary step back. “You don’t smell like shit though.”

“It’s those suppressants,” the asshole on the ground spits. “Saw the little bitch taking them in the alley. I’d’ve made the slut squeal if I—”

Jason doesn’t turn around when he slams a foot down on the man’s ankle. He listens to him scream with a sick flare of satisfaction.

The thugs jerk forward, startled. Their leader doesn’t look phased though, just stares down at Jason with his dark eyes, his rippling arms crossed over a wide roid-puffed chest. “Omegas don’t act like that, kid,” he says matter-of-factly. “They don’t look as fuckin’ ugly as you, too. Seems to me like you need some lessons.”

“Funny you say that,” he slurs back, “I’ve been getting called ‘pretty boy’ my whole life.”

The leader shakes his head, smiling all the while like this is his idea of a pleasant conversation. “Nah, you got the wrong body for an omega. Someone should keep you knocked up, show you what you’re made for.”

Jason rolls his eyes. In addition to getting invasive, people also get incredibly hypersexual. They may say that omegas are ruled by their emotions, but he definitely thinks that alphas are ruled by their knots. “And you’re the guy to do that?”

“I can be,” the thug says, nodding. His friends laugh. “I’m an alpha.” And it’s good to hear the confirmation; he really should’ve smelled it on him, but he’s fucking drunk and his senses are dulled. “Omegas don’t come ‘round here too often. What d’you say you join my crew?”

“Go knot yourself, dickhead,” is Jason’s immediate answer, and he doesn’t have time to regret it because the two flanking thugs come forward to grab him. He swings at one, kicks a leg out at the other, and hits the first, but his leg ends up missing and it throws off his balance. He twists around, trying to get his two feet in a stable position on the ground, and ends up stumbling backwards, into a hard body.

He freezes up, the touch sending heat through his skin. There’s a low rumble of laughter in his ear, and a deep voice rasping, “Stay still. You may be an omega but you’re a stubborn bitch and I ain’t too patient.”

Jason snarls, snapping his head back and listening to the crunch of the alpha’s nose. He jerks out of his grip, then while he’s distracted, focuses on the two thugs in front of him. He gets a good left hook in, and the guy falls to the ground, but he doesn’t manage to catch the fist flying towards his own face in time, and he’s falling backwards into the alpha again.

There’s a couple of people on the other side of the street who have just stopped and are openly staring, and Jason wants to yell at them to either stop watching or help, but the alpha twists him around in his grip until he’s staring dazedly up into angry black eyes, blood spurting violently out of the alpha’s nose over his lips, his fingers gripping Jason’s arms very tightly, two points of sharp pain in addition to the throbbing in his cheek. There are bloody teeth in his face, snarling, “You ain’t even worth my time, I should just kill you, you stupid fucking—”

“Hey!” someone shouts.

Jason tries looking over but the alpha gives him a rough shake and Jason’s eyes snap to his teeth again.

There’s rushing footsteps from somewhere behind, a thump, then a yell of pain, and sometime in the next few seconds he’s lying on the ground, winded, staring up at the night sky and wondering how he ended up there.

He cranes his neck up and sees smaller pale arms wrapping around the alpha’s neck, bringing him to his knees. He watches as those arms tighten, and the alpha’s eyes start bulging as his efforts to dislodge his attacker become weaker and weaker until he’s passing out and collapsing onto the ground.

His saviour stands, and Jason can’t contain the surprise that is definitely showing on his face when he sees who it is. The boy from the bar comes close and holds an arm down towards Jason, offering his assistance. Jason looks at his hand, then up at his placid face, and sees those icy blue eyes staring into his own, not entirely cold and blank but alight with something like excitement or… anticipation.

Jason blinks, then, ignoring the hand, gets up onto his feet. The boy retracts his hand gracefully, then looks up at Jason, the expectancy clear on his face. And, that’s a bit funny, when the boy looks up at him, he has to crane his neck at such a large angle; he’s so much smaller than Jason. Jason doesn’t fully comprehend how a tiny boy could take down a group of thugs much larger than himself.

He then realises that he hasn’t said anything, and neither has the boy, and that they’ve just been staring at each other for the past few seconds. He clears his throat. “Uh, thanks,” he says awkwardly.

The boy offers him a small smile, the corner of his lip twitching slightly. “There’s no need to thank me. I’m just glad you’re okay.”

There’s a slight poshness to his accent, a certain inflection in his tone indicating that he’s one of those rich Gothamites from the upper part of the city, probably born and raised in a fucking manor like Bruce Wayne. He figured—rich kids like that come downtown sometimes looking for some crazy shit to go down that they can then tell all their friends about at school.

He’s immediately put off. Now this kid can tell the story of how he saved a poor little omega from some thugs at a bar in the Narrows. He’s probably looking at Jason like he’s a fucking charity case, like a billionaire philanthropist’s dream come true. Jason decides right then and there that he doesn’t like the kid at all, and he doesn’t want to waste a another second of his time talking to him. He starts walking off after curtly dismissing himself, saying, “Right. Well. Goodbye.”

“Wait,” a soft voice says, and Jason, damn him, waits. The boy walks into his line of view again, and this time the smile is wider, more clearly there. There’s something else underneath the coldness of his eyes now, something dancing underneath the surface that looks like humour. “I didn’t get your name.”

Jason scowls. “You don’t need my name.”

“I would like it.”

Jason snorts. “I bet you would. Go back to your friends, kid, I’m gonna have a fucking hangover in the morning and I’d like to get two fucking hours of sleep before then.” He walks around the boy—the nuisance —and doesn’t get more than three steps before he’s being stopped again. “What the fuck is your problem?” he growls.

“My friends left for another bar during the fight. I’ll walk you home.” The fucking gall of this kid.

“No.” Finally, some emotion other than blankness or subtle amusement makes its way onto the boy’s face. His lips twist unhappily now, his brows coming together, forcing frustrated lines between them.

“At least let me tend to your wounds.”

It’s Jason’s turn to frown now. He touches his own face, then blinks in surprise when his fingers come back covered in blood. Okay. So he may be bleeding. But he’s dealt with wounds countless of other times before, he doesn’t need some silly little boy coming to his apartment and playing doctor with him. “Fuck off,” he snaps.

This time when he stomps past, there are no more attempts to cut him off. However, he can’t shake the feeling of cold blue eyes on him all the way home.

 


 

He wakes with a terrible hangover, his head pounding, his eyes blinded by the laser beams of sunlight shooting through the slots in the blinds.

He groans, then makes for the kitchen to get himself some water. As he’s gulping down a glass, his eyes stray to the clock on the wall above him and he curses internally. It’s ten. He was supposed be trailing one of Black Mask’s lieutenants. They left at nine.

Shit. Fuck, shit.

He puts his glass in the sink and thumps his head against the fridge, his eyes closing. If he still had access to Bruce’s money and technology, all he’d need is a simple tracking device and he’d be set. As it is though…

He thinks he falls asleep again standing there, only jolting awake at the sound of someone knocking softly at his door, but he doesn’t want to know how much time has actually passed, if it has at all, so he avoids looking up at the clock to check.

He has a brief moment of anxiety as he’s walking to the door where he starts imagining that it’s the insistent boy from the bar, but the rational part of his brain reminds him that there’s no way he knows where Jason lives.

He opens the door. It’s Mrs. Evans from a few doors down, looking a little sheepish behind her thick tortoise shell eyeglasses. His neighbours are scared of him, he knows, and he doesn’t fault them for being so. It’s his fault really that he screams so loud at night because his nightmares feel a touch too real.

“I have your mail again, sweetie,” she says, handing Jason a few envelopes, and Jason is grateful for her gentle voice, as if she knows Jason’s got the biggest headache of his life.

He thanks her, then throws the mail on the coffee table and faceplants onto his couch soon after he’s shut the door. He forgets about his tender cheek, and yelps when he lands, quickly moving his head to the right to get the pressure off his bad side.

He really should be going out and making up for missing a lead today, but he can barely bring himself to stand. This doesn’t feel like a normal hangover—he isn’t usually so affected. Yes, he has a headache but he also feels so lethargic, like he’s drifting under the ice, and no matter how hard he kicks he can’t break the surface to get some air and clear his head. And on top of all that, for some reason the vision of pale arms and eyes and midnight black hair won’t leave his head.

He should probably get some food.

There are a few knocks at his door again. It must be Mrs. Evans with more misplaced mail. Sighing heavily, he slowly pushes himself onto his feet, and drags them to the door. He twists the handle, opens it. His jaw drops open in shock.

“You.”

The boy smiles blissfully back at him, looking too bright and eager for how Jason feels. “Hello. I’ve come to check on you.”

Jason grips the handle tightly, afraid that without the point of contact, he might fall down. “How do you know where I live?”

“You told me last night.”

Jason narrows his eyes. “No, I didn’t.”

“You did,” the boy insists. He puts a hand on the centre of the door, pushing gently. Jason grits his teeth and tightens his grip on the handle, determined not to let him in. “You were very drunk, you probably forgot. I said I would come check on you in the morning, since you didn’t want me to come with you last night.”

“Well, here I am alive. You’ve seen me. Now leave me alone.” He pushes the door.

“Wait,” the boy says, pushing back, the door giving, and Jason is reminded of how strong the boy is, despite his looks. He’s wearing a sweater now, but last night it was only a shirt, and the image of smooth muscle clenching hard around a fragile neck still hasn’t left his mind. “I was worried, you know,” he continues. “I understand you can fend for yourself, however those men were very insistent. I just wanted to know if you wanted to talk.”

“Talk?” Jason snaps back. “About what?”

He receives a shrug in return. “Anything. We could talk about last night, what happened there, how you’re feeling today. We could talk about something else entirely. Whatever you want. There’s a nice café near mine. We could have lunch.”

Jason’s stomach grumbles, but he shoots the boy a glare anyway. “You want to talk about my feelings?” he says disbelievingly. Not giving the boy a chance to answer that question with something undoubtedly stupid and condescending, he continues, “Why are you being so insistent? I’ve told you no about twenty times now.”

The boy looks a little remorseful at that. “Sorry, I’m not usually so aggressive. I really am just concerned. If you like, we don’t have to talk at all, but I would love to at least buy you a meal.”

Jason huffs. His stomach gurgles again in the silence afterwards, the traitor, so the boy definitely hears it, and his brow lifts up in amusement.

“Fine,” Jason grunts, giving in. “I’ll get ready. But stay out here.”

The boy smiles and nods, even as Jason all but slams the door in his face. He uses the door chain as well as the deadbolt to lock the door, and it may be a bit excessive since he’s leaving in about two minutes anyway, but he doesn’t want the creepy little stalker boy who knocked out an alpha twice his size on the street getting into his home.

He throws on some sweats, grabs a jacket, and slips on his shoes, then steels himself before unlocking the door and stepping outside with the weirdo. The weirdo who’s buying him lunch, he reminds himself. Be polite. Don’t scare him off. Yet.

The boy backs up as Jason comes out, leaving a gap between them. Jason is grateful. He hates unwanted contact, and as an omega, sometimes it gets a little hard to differentiate between a friendly touch and a friendly touch, so he avoids any physical contact altogether. Alphas especially are terrible with their hands, all grabby and possessive and intrusive. It makes it hard for Jason not to hate them.

The boy maintains his distance in the lift, and Jason forces himself not to make a stupid joke to crack the silence between them. He’s been quiet for the past few minutes, but Jason supposes he’s saving conversation for when they’re eating. Not that Jason’s going to be very cooperative in that regard, but he’s sure the boy can deal with it; the only thing Jason’s been offering him since they met is rejection.

Once they’re out on the street, Jason turns to him and raises his brows expectantly.

He gets quirked lips in response. “Get in.” The boy reaches into his pocket and something beeps twice.

Startled, Jason looks over at the car parked next to them. It’s a Lexus, black and sleek, wholly ostentatious and very much something he would like to avoid getting into. He’s surprised no one’s tried jacking the tires yet, parked on the side of a quiet, small street in the Narrows. He says, resolutely, “I am not getting into your car.”

“How else are we going to get to the café?”

“Where is this café? Don’t tell me it’s—”

“Uptown.” The boy grins. “Yes.”

Jason is not impressed at all. First he misses a shot at getting closer to Black Mask, then he’s subjected to this person’s unyielding obsession with him, all the while dealing with a hangover and whatever else it was he woke up with. His answer is certain. “No.”

“Come on,” the boy says, that infernal grin still plastered on his face. “I promised I’d treat you.”

“I am not getting in your car. We’re walking to a closer café or we’re not going at all.”

“It’s a very nice café.”

“Then we’ll take the subway.”

That gets rid of the stupid grin. “The subway?” the boy asks dubiously.

“What? Too below you? Don’t want to get your shoes dirty, rich boy?” he mocks, sneering down at him.

The boy’s face suddenly erases itself of all emotion, so quickly Jason has to blink to confirm that it actually happened. He’s left with that unsettling blank stare, and Jason almost regrets saying what he did, but not really, because the sooner he can get away from this bot, the better. “I’m not sure what I’ve done to offend you, but whatever it is, I’d rather you tell me now so I can fix it. I believe I’ve treated you with nothing but respect the entire time we’ve known each other. I’ve said nothing about my class or my status, nor have I said anything about yours. I’ll ride the subway with you if you want, but please don’t make assumptions about me, and I won’t make any about you.”

Jason blinks, his mouth suddenly gone dry. “I’m… sorry.” He shakes his head, trying to clear away the embarrassment that has coloured his cheeks. “I didn’t mean that. I’m feeling… off today, I’m sorry.” It’s a lame excuse, he knows, but the boy nods sincerely, seeming to accept his apology.

“That’s okay. I’m only reluctant to take the subway today because I brought my car all the way here and would rather not leave it behind. Shall we?” He gestures towards his car.

Thoroughly guilted, Jason nods, letting him open the door for him and close it as he climbs into the passenger’s seat.

The boy is smiling again when he slides into the car, his cheeks flushed with excitement, eyes bright and dancing. He twists his keys in the ignition, and they’re off, racing down the street at a speed well above the limit.

They get a few blocks down, somehow not having caught the attention of a police officer yet, when Jason realises that he doesn’t even know the boy’s name. He considers asking, but that would most likely require giving up his own name, and he doesn’t think it’s wise to give out any more information about himself than is necessary, especially not to someone who showed up at his apartment without Jason ever giving out his address.

A soft query breaks him out of his thoughts. “Are you okay?”

“I’m fine,” he answers dismissively. Then, realising how rude he sounds in contrast, he reigns himself in. “I’m just hungry.”

“Do you like coffee?”

“No, I’m more of a tea person.”

A nod. “I see.” Then a small smile. “Let me guess, your favourite is Earl Grey?”

“No. Chamomile.”

That gets him a look. “That’s a little surprising.”

God, are they really talking about tea? “How is it surprising?” he says sharply. “Are you a tea expert? Do you specialise in pairing personalities with leaves? Weren’t you just saying two minutes ago that you don’t make assumptions?”

The look turns unimpressed. “You’re very defensive, you know that.”

“Well, you’re not exactly the sort of person I’d trust,” he mutters.

“Anyway, chamomile,” the boy nods thoughtfully to himself as if he didn’t hear Jason. “I can see why. It’s very relaxing. Makes me very drowsy.”

Jason grunts.

“Also very helpful for anxiety and stress.”

Jason stares out the window.

“Are you stressed?”

“For fuck’s sake,” Jason explodes, “are you trying to be my shrink now? If you only followed me because you think I’m some lost soul who needs saving, you should be prepared to be very, very disappointed because I am not a charity case and I am not afraid to spend the night in jail for showing you just how helpless I am.”

The boy nods at all of this. “So very stressed.”

Jason stares at him wordlessly, trying to gauge if this is all some terrible nightmare. It’s not even noon yet and already this is the longest day of his life.

The boy smiles.

“You don’t have to tell me, I’m not trying to coerce you into saying things you don’t feel comfortable talking about. I’m only providing you with an outlet if you want someone to talk to. Everyone gets stressed, everyone has needs. Sometimes the only thing you need is a friend.”

“What gave you the impression that I need someone to talk to?”

“Well, you are an omega, and you were just attacked last night by an alpha and his pack while you were sitting alone at a bar in one of the worst parts of town. You don’t have a mate, and you live alone, and I only want to extend my hand because I don’t have many friends myself, and I would like it if you wanted to be mine.” He slows the car considerably, and Jason realises that they’ve reached the café. He parks the car, but before Jason can get out, he says, “Wait.”

Jason, reluctantly, waits.

The boy twists in his seat, facing Jason head on, his piercing eyes wide and earnest. “I feel like we might be two similar souls, and if yours is anything like mine then I know we want the same thing. We need it.”

Jason blinks. “Who are you?”

“My name is Tim,” the boy— Tim says with a grin, extending his hand over the centre console. “You are?”

Jason looks down at the offered hand dubiously. Well, he has his name, and that’s enough to go off of if he ever needs to do some stalking and threatening of his own. He considers giving him a fake name, then remembers that the boy already knows so much about him and decides that if Tim also has his ways, he probably already knows Jason’s full name, so there’s no point in hiding it. “Jason,” he says eventually, but he doesn’t shake his hand.

Tim retracts his, placing it into his jacket pocket. He smiles guilessly. “Well, Jason, let’s get some food, shall we?”

Jason follows him into the café, a busy little building on the corner of the road, and they are greeted by a line from the counter reaching almost to the door. Looking around, he notices that most of the people inside are college students, their books and laptops sprawled all over the tables, a few bleary-eyed people clutching their coffees tight. No wonder this is Tim’s favourite café, he fits right in.

Tim joins the line, then, looking over his shoulder at Jason, chuckles lightly at the expression on his face. “They’re college students, they’re not going to bite. Why don’t you go and save us a table?”

Jason bristles at the request sounding almost like an order, but forces himself to exhale slowly and let it go. He chooses a table as close to the door as he can manage, ensuring he has a clear escape path in case things start going south, which, when you live in Gotham, you come to expect almost daily.

Sinking into his seat, his eyes drift towards the line, where Tim is standing and idly chatting to the girl in line behind him. He watches him carefully, in the hopes that maybe he’ll find a clue that will aid in discerning what it is exactly Tim wants with him.

He’s confident, indeed, has been giving off that poised and cool air the entire time, even last night, after the fight. Also quite arrogant, he thinks as Tim tilts his head to one side and laughs at whatever the girl just said to him. Other than that… he can’t quite get a read on him. There’s obviously something he wants, but he’s made no obvious indications as to what it is. Jason doesn’t believe that ‘friendship’ bullshit he’s trying to sell one bit.

Perhaps…

Jason freezes. Perhaps he knows about Jason’s extracurricular activities. Perhaps—

Oh. How could he have been so idiotic? Black Mask. What if he’s working for Black Mask?

But Jason hasn’t left a single clue for Roman, hasn’t left a single strand of hair behind on the scene, hasn’t left a single drop of blood. There’s no possible way Roman could know his identity, Jason is legally dead for God’s sake. So who is this boy?

Well, he thinks as Tim strides over to the table, wearing a blissful smile on his face as if everything is wonderful with the world, there’s only one way to find out.

“So, Jason,” Tim says as he sits across from Jason, folding his fingers together and resting his chin on top, “what do you do?”

Jason smiles contemptuously. “A bit of this, a bit of that. I’m kind of a freelancer.”

Tim doesn’t let up. “What were you planning to do today, had I not interrupted you?”

Follow Black Mask’s lieutenant to what potentially might have been another base of operations, then scope out the facility in order to begin planning the best method of infiltration. “Watch TV.”

Tim hums, seemingly unaffected by Jason’s obvious non-answers.

“What about you?” Jason asks, leaning back in his seat, hoping to turn the conversation away from himself. “You don’t have class today?”

“No, I usually have Mondays off. Actually, I do have a lecture at four, however I can always find the notes for it online. I have better things to do anyway.”

“Like pick up random men from their homes and bring them to cafés?”

Tim doesn’t smile. “No, actually.” His eyes slide over the table, dragging slowly upwards to look at Jason through his lashes. “Only you.”

The way he says it, his voice pitched low, sends shivers down Jason’s spine. He shakes them off, then levels a mirthless smile at him. “And why me exactly?”

“I’ve told you. I couldn’t get you out of my head the entire night, I was worried. Think of this as a friendly catch up. I just want to know that you’re alright after last night. And well fed,” he adds as the waiter comes over to their table with their food. “Thank you,” he says to him, then pushes the large plate with an omelette, sausages, bacon, and sourdough over to Jason’s side, keeping the avocado toast on his. The waiter comes back a few seconds later with their coffee and tea.

Jason stares down at his food dubiously. “Why did you order me so much?”

“It’s the Big Breakfast. It comes like that.”

“Why did you order me the Big Breakfast?”

Tim sighs, ripping into his bread and dipping a piece into the avocado. “I noticed that your stomach was growling,” he starts.

Jason glares. “So you assumed that I must be starving?”

“Of course not,” Tim snaps. “I only thought I could save you the trouble of buying food this morning and treat you to a nice meal. You deserve it after last night.” He stuffs a large piece of bread into his mouth. “I hope you’re not vegetarian,” he adds, his mouth full.

Jason stabs a fork into one of the sausages and bites the tip off. “No,” he answers, savouring the chewy meat, the juices released with every bite. It’s been a while since he’s eaten a meal so flavoursome. It’s not that he doesn’t have money—he actually has quite a bit from the armoured vans he’s recently hijacked, though it’s not like it’s a steady income—he just doesn’t allow himself the luxury. It’s more important he spends his time on getting Black Mask rather than grocery shopping. The most extravagant meal he’s allowed himself to have these past few months was the Quarter Pounder meal at McDonald’s just last week.

Tim watches him eat, evidently satisfied, if the way he smiles to himself is anything to go by. They eat in silence after that, letting the noise of the baristas and other customers flow in between them, the smell of coffee wafting through the air, bringing Jason slightly to more wakefulness. The food does wonders for his headache, and he scoffs it down quickly in order to catch up to Tim, who is on his second piece of toast.

“You’re intriguing, you know,” Tim says, over the edge of his mug. “You’re an omega, but you don’t act like one.”

“Please don’t say that out loud,” Jason says quietly, leaning over the table towards Tim. “I hide my status for a reason, and I would prefer if it stayed hidden.”

Tim purses his lips but he nods once. “Sorry.” He takes a sip of his coffee.

He doesn’t sound very sorry though, Jason notes. He sighs. “Do you want some of my food? I’ve noticed you eyeing it ever since the waiter set it down.”

Tim shakes his head. “No, I need to eat better. I’m usually pigging out on junk—”

Jason heaps the rest of his bacon and sausages onto Tim’s plate, ignoring his protests.

“Thank you,” Tim says quietly but earnestly, wide eyes locked onto Jason’s own. “You really didn’t need to, but I appreciate the gesture—”

Jason rolls his eyes. “I just gave you some food. Which you paid for, by the way. There’s no need to act like I’ve done something amazing, kid.”

“I’m no kid,” Tim answers back indignantly. “I’m the same age as you—”

“And how old is that?”

“Twenty.”

“Well, I’m twenty-three. So, no. Not the same.”

“But you can’t call me a kid. Being three years older doesn’t give you the right.”

“You’re very defensive, you know that,” Jason parrots his words from earlier, running a finger through the yolk on his plate and popping it into his mouth. He feels a note of surprise when he sees Tim staring, tracking his finger when he takes it out of his mouth, coated in saliva.

Tim clears his throat. “I’ve had some troubles in the past where people I’ve admired tried to bring me down using my age and subsequent assumed inexperience. I proved them all wrong.”

“Impressive,” Jason says noncommittally, still stuck on the way Tim was staring. “Who was this? A professor at college?”

“No,” Tim answers, but he doesn’t say any more.

They delve into silence again, but this time there’s a note of tension running between them. Jason does his best to ignore it, finishing off his food and gulping down his tea while Tim stares gloomily into his mug.

Tim is still gloomy by the time they’ve finished and are exiting out of the café and heading back into his car. Jason’s just glad he can go back home now, where hopefully Tim will leave and never bother him again; if he learnt anything from their breakfast, it should be that Jason doesn’t make for very good company.

On the drive back, however, Tim seems to brighten up considerably, and by the time they’ve reached Jason’s street, he’s smiling again, lips quirked up at their corners. As soon as he parks, Jason mutters a half-assed goodbye and is out the door, taking long, quick steps away from the car, towards his apartment building.

“Same time next week?” Tim‘s voice calls after him, and when Jason turns he’s met with a rolled-down window, a dazzling smile and very white teeth, and a pale arm hanging lazily and arrogantly over the steering wheel.

“I didn’t realise this was becoming routine,” he grits out between his teeth, reluctantly walking back towards the car so he isn’t shouting across the sidewalk.

“No, but I would like to see you again. Could I have your number, if you’d rather a different day? So we can plan properly.”

No. No.

“You have my address,” he says, intending to point out that if Tim knows his address, he must know his number, then realises that it sounds like he’s inviting Tim over to his apartment any time.

Stupid. Idiot.

“It would be easier for me to call. Or text. Whatever you prefer.”

“Yes. Fine. Here. Do you have a pen?”

Tim reaches into the glove compartment and hands him one, then holds out his wrist towards Jason, resting his arm on the windowsill.

Jason stares down at the pale skin exposed to him. “Don’t you have paper?” he asks.

“No,” Tim answers with another glimmering smile.

Jason takes a deep breath, dreading the fact that he’ll be forced to touch Tim, to rest his fingers on his skin to stabilise his writing, when that is one of the last things on this earth that he ever wants to do. He lets the breath out slowly, steeling himself. He bends down, touching pen tip to wrist, the backs of his fingers gripped around the pen unintentionally meeting soft, pale skin, and the effect is almost instantaneous.

Sparks light up his skin where they touch, and he jolts back, pulling his hand away, and Tim gasps and looks up at him with wide eyes.

“I’m—I’m sorry,” he stammers, willing his shaking fingers to still, “that’s never happened before.”

“That’s okay,” Tim says, and he sounds breathless, “it must have been static.”

“Yes. Static.” He leans down once more, determined not to let whatever that was stop him from writing ten goddamn numbers. However, once again, when he touches the pen to Tim’s skin, the same sensation starts up again in his fingers. He presses on, and the longer his skin stays connected to Tim’s, the more the sensation blooms out, spreading up his arm, warming something in his chest.

Tim is equally as affected, staring at Jason with those clear, blue eyes, hushed little pants escaping those parted lips, blowing hot air against Jason’s skin.

As soon as he writes the last number, he pulls away, standing an arm’s width away from the car. The sensation fades as quickly as it came, however the warmth in his chest stays, travelling up to his cheeks, leaving him flushed, which he’d undoubtedly see if he looked closely at his reflection in the car window.

Tim is still staring, still panting, and Jason realises he’s still holding the pen.

“Keep it,” he says, as if reading Jason’s mind. “I’ll call you.”

Jason doesn’t answer. He turns and rushes into his apartment before he hears Tim’s car start up and leave.

 


 

Chapter Text

Gotham in general is shitty enough at night, the red light district even more so. It seems the creeps run on a nocturnal clock, coming out when the sun goes down to start trouble wherever they lurk, to make Jason’s life a little harder, but also a little more exciting. He patrols the area regularly, looking out for the girls who he knows are stronger than they look but vulnerable all the same. Sex and violence often go hand in hand, after all.

It’s on one of these nights that he comes across the henchman he was meant to tail. He’s stumbling out of some club, slicked back hair and tacky white suit making him fit in with every other sleazebag there. Jason’s only there keeping an eye on the street, so he feels incredibly lucky when his target falls right into his arms.

“Rosso,” he greets the man, stepping out of the shadows into the neon glow of the club’s sign. “Heard you’re working for Black Mask now.”

The man startles, spinning around and widening his eyes when he sees Jason. He lets out a little yelp before he runs off in the other direction. Jason lets him run. He takes to the rooftops, following close as the man runs himself into an alleyway, dark enough that no one will see what Jason is about to do. Rosso stops, jerking his head around nervously, looking for Jason, and when he can’t find him, he bends over and tries to catch his breath, ragged noises squeezing out of his chest.

Jason jumps down and lands with a thud, startling Rosso into turning around, but before he can shout, Jason covers his mouth and flips him hard to the ground, and the man stares up at him on his back, momentarily winded.

“Rosso, Rosso, Rosso,” he says, tutting, digging his boot into the man’s shoulder, leaving dark imprints on his white jacket. “You disappoint me, Rosso. I thought you were being good. Three years in Blackgate? Don’t tell me you miss it. You seem so eager to get back.”

“No, no!” the man cries, hands up near his head in surrender. “I’m not, I’m not —”

“Then what’s this I hear about you wearing a new mask now? A black one? I kill your old boss, and you act all grateful to me like he forced you into it, then you go and get yourself employed by someone even worse! You’re a goddamn wishy-washy son of a bitch, you know that.”

“Ah, come on, Hood,” the man laughs nervously, “you know it ain’t that easy to escape this life. You o’ all people know that.”

Jason nods. “That’s true. It ain’t easy.” He reaches for the strap around his thigh and unholsters his gun, clicking the safety off. You waves it casually in the air, watching Rosso’s eyes trail it warily. “You been botherin’ any girls, Rosso?”

The man swallows, Jason watches his throat bob up and down with the motion. “Nah. Nah, Hood. You know me. That ain’t my style.”

Jason hums. “Why’s your fly undone, Rosso?”

“My—my—” Rosso licks his lips nervously, attempts to lift his head up to look down at his pants, but Jason pushes hard against him with his foot. “Ah, that ain’t—that ain’t what you’re thinkin’. I was with this stripper down at the Cherry. Ain’t nothin’ more than a dance, Hood. Ain’t nothin’ more than a dance.”

Jason shoves his gun up against Rosso’s crotch, making him squeal in surprise. “Hood! Please, I’m tellin’ the truth, I wouldn’t lie to ya—”

“Alright, Rosso, alright. Just checkin’. Now, before my finger slips, wanna tell me about your new boss?”

“He—he has a warehouse down at the docks, uses it to store goods. That’s the place I’m in charge of, but we only get his shipments, that’s it. No drugs, no people, no nothin’, just his shipments.”

“What’s in those shipments?”

“What’s—uh. I dunno.”

Jason presses the gun harder into his crotch. “You don’t know?

“I’m sorry!” he yelps, eyes wide and glued to the gun at his crotch. “We ain’t allowed to look inside. I dunno what’s inside, I swear!”

“So how do you know they aren’t drugs or people?”

Rosso gapes, suddenly at a loss for words.

“Rosso, you’re a big, dumb idiot. You’re gonna tell me where this warehouse is, or I’m gonna blow your dick off right here.”

Rosso rattles off an address, and Jason lets off, holstering his gun again as he helps Rosso to his feet. He thinks he spots a shadow on the roof above, lurking out of the corner of his eye, but when he turns to look, it’s gone.

Strange.

He brushes Rosso’s shoulder, attempting to wipe some of the boot mark away while he covertly clips a tracker to the underside of his lapel with his other hand.

“You did good, Rosso, thank you,” he says cheerfully, slapping the man hard on the back. “Anything broken?”

“No,” Rosso answers, albeit a little shakily.

“Alright. Get the fuck outta here.”

He watches the man run back down the alley to the street, then he shoots off a grapple to the rooftop where he saw the shadow. Narrowing his eyes when he gets to the top and finds nothing, he looks around at the nearby roofs, searching for any kind of caped crusader or something of the like. When no one shows up, he decides to go home and deal with it when it inevitably comes back to bite him in the ass, not naive enough to blow it off as plastic in the wind or a speck of dirt on his helmet lens. Someone was watching him, listening in on their conversation, and now someone knows the address of the warehouse. Visiting it tonight would be too dangerous.

He leaps then, leaving behind the red light district, but on the way home, the familiar unsettling feeling of eyes on his back makes him turn and head for a motel.

 


 

It’s ten in the morning and there’s five missed calls on his phone. He’s been ignoring it resolutely, but whoever it is—and he has a strong idea of who it is—is persistent, and will seemingly not stop until Jason gets up and answers. He stops the vibration by pressing the volume button and and falls back asleep again for about five minutes before it’s vibrating again, humming against his bedside table.

He does this another two times before he’s giving up and answering with a snarl. “What the fuck do you want?”

“You’re not at your apartment.”

Jesus fucking Christ, he is literally being stalked by a college kid. “No, I’m not. Why the fuck are you at my apartment?”

“Where are you?”

“At a fucking slumber party—it’s none of your goddamn business,” he hisses, slapping a hand over his eyes and cursing the universe for the terrible misfortune that has followed him throughout his entire life. “Now tell me why you’re at my apartment.”

“Jason, it’s our café day.” At Jason’s confused grunt, Tim repeats, “Our café day. I’m here to pick you up.”

“I do not remember agreeing to anything like that.”

“Oh. Well, I assumed that since you hadn’t responded to any of my texts about changing the date that you’d be alright with it.”

“Right, well, again you shouldn’t have assumed. No, actually, you should have assumed that no replies from me means no. And you shouldn’t have shown up at my apartment without an invitation, you little creep, do you have any idea how unsafe that makes me feel? You go on and on about my feelings as an omega, about how you’re so concerned about me after that night, and then you go ahead and try to force yourself into my life.”

Tim is silent for a few seconds over the line. “I’m sorry,” he says finally, and he at least sounds it. “I suppose I was too eager, I only wanted to see you again. To possibly discuss what happened last time.”

What happened last time—oh. He’d forgotten. That strange sparking sensation that had lit his skin alight when their skin had touched. The event had been buried under a week’s worth of patrol and various other incidents such as his meeting with Rosso, and now that it has been brought up again, Jason finds that it has situated itself at the forefront of his mind, taking precedence over even his thoughts about Black Mask.

“There’s nothing to discuss,” he says adamantly, though the phantom feeling of Tim’s skin on his burns in his memory. “Whatever that was—it was nothing.”

“It wasn’t nothing and you know it. Something happened between us, and I can’t just let it go without finding out what it was. At least let me see you again so we can test your theory of it being nothing.”

“No,” Jason says forcefully. “This is exactly why I avoid touching people. They meet an omega and think that they can tell them to do anything and they’ll bend over and take it just because—just because it’s in their nature —”

“Have I forced you to do anything? You’re lumping me in with a group of people, but—”

“I’ve said ‘no’ how many times to you, and I don’t think you’ve respected it once,” Jason growls.

Tim pauses, like he’s only now just realised that he’s been doing that. And, really, Jason wouldn’t be surprised if he sincerely did not know. Even with suppressants, Jason’s found that people still treat him like an omega, like they can sense his true nature without being able to scent him. It doesn’t mean he’ll allow it to happen, even unintentionally. Calling out Tim’s behaviour is doing both of them a favour.

“I’m sorry—” Tim starts, before Jason cuts him off.

“Yeah, yeah, apologise all you want. It doesn’t mean anything until you start changing the way you act.”

Tim sighs deeply, breath coming out harsh and distorted over the line. “You’re right. You’re… completely right. If you want, I won’t bother you again.”

“Good. I’ll be changing my number too, so don’t bother calling back.”

“I wouldn’t—”

He hangs up before he can hear another word. He turns over on his bed, throwing an arm over his eyes and hoping to get at least another ten minutes of sleep, but soon realises that he’s too worked up for it now.

He groans, stumbling out of bed—yelping when he bangs into the bedside table—and making his way into the bathroom to shower. Once he’s wide awake and refreshed, he puts on his gear, throwing a loose hoodie and sweatpants over the top, and placing his helmet in his backpack which he slings over his shoulder.

He takes his motorcycle and heads to the docks, to the place that’s been pinging Rosso’s location for an hour which is, fortunately for Rosso, the same as the address he gave him. It’s a little stupid, heading to the warehouse in the bright of day, with little more than a pistol for defence. He definitely should have come the moment Rosso told him about it, made him lead Jason there, however that shadow on the roof impeded his plans, and now he has to run the risk of increased security if Rosso decided to snitch in the time between then and now.

He scopes the place out, and it looks fairly innocuous sitting there in the daylight, roller doors shut, a few parked trucks out front. That doesn’t mean that the warehouse isn’t firmly guarded inside, however, if Jason knows Black Mask, his goons will be easy enough to take on.

He sneaks in through a skylight at the top, dropping silently down onto one of the supportive railings below. Inside, the warehouse looks huge, and there are at least twelve rows of crates stacked high up to the ceiling, stretching from one end to the other. There are a few workers on the ground, dressed in vests and hard hats, a forklift whizzing into one of the aisles below Jason, but other than that, there are no guards stationed anywhere he can see, no sleazy looking men in suits. For a moment, he thinks he’s in the wrong warehouse.

Then he hears a roller door open, as well as a familiar slimey voice.

“Black Mask ain’t gonna be none too happy about this, but it’s the best we can do for now. We’re lucky the Hood didn’ try an’ break in last night.”

Jason rolls his eyes as Rosso and two other men walk in—bodyguards, if their barely concealed shoulder holsters are anything to go by.

“We’re gonna station you two by either entrance,” Rosso is saying. “You can try engaging all ya want, but I’m tellin’ ya it’ll be faster to radio for backup.”

Jason follows them as they walk to the other end of the warehouse, Rosso dropping off one of the men at the door before walking to the opposite end with the other. When they’re out of hearing range, Jason drops down and takes the lone man out. He ghosts Rosso and the other guy, almost snickering when a worker looks over at him and doesn’t bat an eye, probably thinking he’s supposed to be there. Once they’re at the door, Jason speaks up.

“Rosso, don’t tell me you squealed on me.”

Rosso jumps, emitting a yelp when he turns and faces Jason. The bodyguard reaches for his gun, but Jason smacks his hand away and aims a kick at his head, and the man goes straight down. Jason turns on his heel to face Rosso, shaking his head disappointedly. “I thought you weren’t looking for a fight, but now I’m starting to think you really do miss me.”

“H—Hood,” he stammers, legs shaking so hard he’s barely holding himself up. “It’s only a job, Hood, I’m only doin’ what I gotta do. I knew you’d be able to take ‘em out, I wasn’t tryna make it harder for you.”

By now, a couple of workers are staring. Jason bends down, snatching the bodyguard’s gun and shooting twice into the air as a warning. “Any of you try to run, any of you try to call anybody, you’ll get one in your stomach and believe me, surgery to fix that ain’t pretty and it ain’t cheap either.”

He turns back to Rosso. “Now, Rosso, you wanna show me what’s in those crates?” He slowly lowers the gun, and Rosso clenches up, eyes going wide.

“I’ll show ya, I’ll show ya,” he promises, “but I’m tellin’ ya nothin’s in there.” He steps away, trying to put a wide berth between himself and Jason, then leads him to the closest crate. He’s ordering two of the workers to come help when a new voice slithers into his ears, loud in the quiet of the warehouse.

“Why don’t I show you.”

Jason spins, finding his gun pointed straight at the head of the most dangerous crime lord in Gotham.

“Now, now,” Black Mask chides, voice low and rattling out of his mouth, sounding like the skeleton Jason knows he looks like under the gimp mask. He sounds vaguely amused, but Jason knows better than to think this exchange is going to be anything resembling pleasant. “This ain’t no way to treat a host. Not when I’m planning on being hospitable.”

“I could do the world a favour and kill you right now,” Jason says, unwavering.

“Yeah, but that ain’t gonna help you much, kid, you know that. Let me show you what’s in those crates, since you’re so curious.”

Jason takes a moment, wondering if this is some kind of trap, but he is admittedly curious, so he nods once and steps aside for Roman to lead the way. Roman flicks two fingers over at the workers, and they come with crowbars to lever open the covers. Roman makes them open five crates, chosen at random by Jason, and he tries not to feel too much disappointment when they reveal that all that’s inside are a bunch of plastics and building materials.

“See?” Roman says, turning to Jason with a grin in his voice, “I’m all straight now. No drugs, no weapons—other than the ones my guards use but they’re all registered, you can check. I ain’t even angry you broke in here, though you interrupted my meeting when the sensors on the roof kept setting off the goddamn alarms at my office.”

“A meeting with your fellow drug lords,” Jason says. Roman snorts.

“No, actually,” he says. “But I wouldn’t wanna bore you with business talk.” He turns and starts walking back to the main doors, prompting Jason to follow behind. “Actually, It’s a good thing you’re here, I have a proposal for you.”

Jason knows he’s lying, knows that this isn’t the only warehouse he has, has found a dozen more stashed with millions of grams of coke, and knows that Roman is not running business meetings with law-abiding, reputable businessmen. He knows all this, but he plays along, seeing an in. “A proposal? For me?” He clutches a hand to his chest. “You shouldn’t have.”

“I want you to work for me.”

Jason stills in shock. “Are you crazy?”

Sensing that Jason has stopped, Roman stops a few paces ahead, turning to Jason with a slight tilt of his head. “No crazier than you, apparently. I heard about you decapitating those men. I also know you’re the one who took many of my… corrupted associates out. I’ll deal with you later, Rosso,” he adds, and Jason realises that the man has just sidled up tentatively to his side, trembling even harder now that his boss has just guaranteed his death. “You do good work, you’re efficient, you’re brutal. I could use a guy like you on my team.”

“Why would you need a guy like me if you’re doing honest work now?”

Roman chuckles. “I like you, kid. You’re smart. Even though I’m outta the old life, I still got a lot of enemies. I could use you as a personal bodyguard, my head of security, if you want.”

“You’d make me head of security?

“Anything wrong with that? Being head gets you a lot of perks. Five thousand a week sound good to you?”

“I didn’t mean that,” Jason says, hiding his offence that anyone could think he can just be bought out by some money. A little voice, way, way in the back of his head that has had enough of cramped apartments and soggy fast food starts screaming, ‘Five thousand a week!’ “I meant, you’d make me the head of security even though I killed your men?”

“You do this for as long as me, you learn not to trust anyone. You just make sure you can reach your gun faster than they can when they inevitably turn around and shoot you in the back.”

“You’ve lived a hard life, Sionis,” he says dryly.

“Like you wouldn’t believe, kid. So what do you say?”

Jason knows there’s something up, knows that Roman’s hiding something big. And Jason hasn’t spent almost every day of the past year trying to find out what it is just to give it up. So there’s only one thing he can say.

“When do I start?”

 


 

It’s been a long while since he’s worked under an alpha. He’d forgotten how demanding they are, how prissy they get when something doesn’t go their way. Roman doesn’t let Jason out of his sight, and Jason’s not sure of it being because he doesn’t trust him, or if he’s actually fearing an attack from an enemy. Either way, it’s impeding upon him snooping around and looking for any dirt on the guy.

But that’s not the worst thing about working for an alpha. No, the worst thing is the smell. It’s not even that Roman smells horrible or anything, in fact, it’s the opposite. Roman doesn’t use any suppressants at all, and his alpha scent is, at times, overwhelming; it’s masculine, musky, and somewhat smoky—but that may just be the expensive cigars—and the worst thing is: Jason doesn’t find it unpleasant at all. He smells—and though he hates the thought, he can’t think of a better way to describe it—he smells powerful. He smells unlike any other alpha he’s ever met, including Bruce.

It does become unpleasant, however, when one day, as he’s heading out of Roman’s office, he catches himself taking a deep breath in, trying to inhale as much as possible of Roman’s scent before he gets into the elevator. Once he’s inside and completely cut off, his mind suddenly clears and, feeling the disgust settle somewhere in his gut, he makes a vow to ensure that he doesn’t miss a single dose of his suppressants.

The alpha thugs on the street basically go rabid the moment they learn there’s an omega nearby; he never wants to know what Roman might do if he ever finds out Jason is one.

Anyway, other than the fact that Roman smells like sex and violence wrapped up in Armani, Jason’s work is easy. He accompanies Roman to meetings, which do turn out to be disappointingly legal and wholly uninteresting, and stands nearby in the clubs Roman visits on the weekends, looking out for trouble while Roman makes use of the backrooms.

He tries to make the most of the opportunities his new job presents to him. He uses his status as Roman’s head of security to spook the local drug lords into giving him a cut of their profits. He uses Roman’s men to reroute their shipments into Roman’s warehouses, stealing their weaponry and their drugs.

None of this goes unnoticed by Roman, who pulls Jason aside one day and tells him, “Good work,” and nothing else.

It is a good sign, Jason thinks. And he turns out being right.

Roman pulls him deeper. He starts taking Jason to the illicit meetings, the meetings where he decides who lives and who dies, where the next weapons shipment goes, who gets the drugs. He sends Jason off on missions to hijack trucks carrying special cargo, collecting rare items that he hasn’t even heard of and taking them down to the high security rooms, where Roman has given him clearance.

He even offers Jason use of his club’s private rooms.

“You did an excellent job at the meeting with the Russians. You should take a night off, spend it at the club. Why don’t you borrow one of my girls?”

Jason looks up at him, quirking his brow even though he knows Roman can’t see.

“No? Not your type?” Jason shakes his head, and Roman seems to let the matter go. But then, with a little humour in his voice, he adds, “I know of a few clubs that have omega boys, if you want.”

Jason stiffens. “No, thank you.”

Roman chuckles. “Alright. Just checking.”

It all starts to go downhill three months in.

They’re at Roman’s club, and the man himself has disappeared off into a backroom with a couple of girls on his arms. Jason’s standing by with a few other men, but they’re all distracted, chatting up some of the girls, cocky now that the boss isn’t watching. Jason rolls his eyes and keeps his attention trained on the door.

A man walks in after an hour or so, and Jason perks up immediately because this isn’t someone he’s seen before, and people who aren’t regulars are rarely let in by the bouncers. He nudges the closest of Roman’s men, orders him to go check on the bouncers outside and alert the others, then follows the man through the crowd, his heart racing with adrenaline. After a month straight of no disturbances, Jason figures it was only time.

The man heads straight for the backrooms. Jason is sure now that he isn’t here for leisure. He pushes a couple of people out of the way, striding quickly to place himself in front of him.

“Excuse me,” he says, “you looking for somebody?”

“Yeah,” the man answers, looking Jason up and down. His eyes are glassy, red, his skin pale and sickly—he must be some kind of addict, come to demand drugs from Roman or something equally as idiotic. “I’m looking for Black Mask. You seen him?”

Jason straightens up, crossing his arms in front of his chest. “He ain’t here. What do you want from him?”

The man doesn’t look intimidated at all. He sneers. “I know your boss is in that room.” He nods over to the door. “I wanna talk.”

“You can arrange an appointment. I’ll give you a card.”

“I don’t need no card. I’m getting through to see him, or else—” He reaches out to push Jason aside, but Jason’s quicker, smacking his arm down and glaring.

“Try to touch me again and you’ll find yourself waking up in a dumpster.”

The man reaches out once more. Jason goes to smack him away again, but finds that the man is more unyielding now, hardly budging when Jason pulls down at his arm.

“What—”

The man wraps his fingers around Jason’s throat and lifts. Jason’s eyes bulge as his feet leave the ground.

Christ, a fucking meta.

He goes for his gun and fires a shot into his chest. Blood splatters against his helmet lens. The club erupts into screams. The man doesn’t flinch even though there’s a gaping hole in the middle of his chest now. He growls, and Jason feels himself being pulled towards him before he’s thrown into the wall. He gasps in pain, winded for a moment, and the man steps over him, heading for Roman’s room.

Before he can yell out a warning, the door swings open, and Roman steps out, wielding a fucking shotgun of all things.

“I told you to leave it, Terrio,” is all he says before he fires into the man’s chest. The man stumbles back and collapses against the wall.

Roman drops the gun and looks down, seeming to startle when he sees Jason on the ground. He reaches a gloved hand out for Jason to take. Jason accepts his help, pulling himself up with a strained groan.

“Let’s get outta here,” Roman says, jerking his head towards the exit where the entire club is stampeding through. “Terrio ain’t dead and I know for a fact he ain’t gonna leave you alive if he gets his hands on you again.”

“Where are the girls?”

“They’ll be fine. It’s me he wants, not them. Come on.”

Jason follows him, assuming he’s going to try and fight through the crowd to escape, but he walks past the door, to the hallway at the other end of the club.

“Roof,” is all he says when Jason asks him where he’s going.

He leads them to the stairs leading up to the roof. They run up, three steps at a time, pushing past the door and into the cool night air. The roof is too far above the ground to simply jump down. They’re going to have to grapple.

Before he can say this to Roman, Roman turns away from him, fiddling with his phone, probably alerting his security, and Jason takes the moment of reprieve to ask, “What does he want?”

“I took the weapon that made him like that. A beautiful little dagger from Egypt or Mesopotamia or some other ancient shithole,” Roman says absently. “Figured I’d sell it for a few billion.”

“If he doesn’t have it, why’s he still so fuckin’ strong?”

“Not as strong as before, believe me. He’s dying without it. Son of a bitch deserves it, if you ask me, doesn’t know how to use it.” He looks up, sliding his phone back into his pocket. “Now, I was hoping you’d find a way to get me off this roof, if you don’t mind.”

Jason takes his grappling gun out of his belt, shooting it at a pipe and watching the grapple wrap around it, offering an arm wordlessly to Roman. Roman steps into Jason’s space, slipping his own arm around Jason’s waist, and Jason is suddenly hyperaware of all the places they’re touching.

Roman’s body is solid against him, much to Jason’s surprise. He hadn’t really taken him for a physical kind of guy, more into figuratively getting his hands dirty than literally, but he can feel hard muscle underneath the three piece suit, in the arm wrapped around him.

He must tense up for too long, because Roman turns to look at him, asking, “Something wrong?”

He’s glad he’s wearing a helmet, because his face suddenly feels very flushed. “No,” he answers. “Run with me and hold on.” He backs up, Roman following him step by step, then runs towards the edge, Roman meeting him stride for stride, and they leap off the roof together. Jason tightens his hold around Roman instinctively, and he feels the grip around his waist tighten in response.

He’s breathless for a few seconds, and when they’re safe on the ground, Jason lets go immediately. Roman’s arm, however, lingers for a few seconds more, and Jason feels fire on his skin when Roman pulls away, his hand trailing unintentionally along Jason’s lower arm.

“Good work, Red,” Roman says, heading to his car, which is sitting alone on the street, the other cars long gone. “Looks like those idiots up and left without me. If they’re stupid enough to show their faces again—”

“Look out!” Jason yells, shoving Roman out of the way when Terrio appears and charges towards them.

He’s slammed hard into the side of the car, and he only has a second to recover before a fist is flying towards his head. He ducks, dodging out of the way as another fist comes at him.

He looks off to the side for a second and sees Roman running back into the club, probably seeking shelter there.

He isn’t fast enough to dodge the next punch, and he is careened back into the side of the car—

The car. The car gives him an idea. He ducks once again, then rips the car door open, leaping inside. Terrio follows him in, grabbing at his feet, but Jason snakes his way past the open partition and into the front seat. He slams the button that shuts and locks all the car doors, then hits the button that releases a sleeping gas through the vents in the back—a feature he’d only known about because he’d witnessed Roman using it on a few of his men he wasn’t happy with, toying with them about speak of a reward, then putting them to sleep and dumping them out in the ocean.

The effects of the gas are instantaneous. Terrio tries grabbing at him through the partition, but his movements are slowed—the partition! Jason left the fucking partition open and the gas is leaking into the front. He searches desperately for the switch to wind it up, but he can feel his thoughts slipping away, his eyesight blurring.

Where’s that fucking switch

 


 

He wakes up in an unfamiliar room, on an unfamiliar bed, staring up at an unfamiliar ceiling.

He jolts up into a sitting position, taking in his surroundings. His clothes are folded neatly on a chair beside the bed, his thigh holsters slung over the back. His guns are up on the drawer, as well as his helmet.

His helmet…

Jason freezes, looking down at himself. Someone has taken his clothes off, taken his helmet off, and tucked him into bed. And now that someone knows his identity.

He grabs his gun, puts on a shirt and his helmet, then quietly pads out of the room, entering another room that looks more like a hall, wide and carpeted, a sofa and a number of armchairs clumped together in the middle, Roman sitting primly in the one facing the door of Jason’s room.

“Ah, Red, you’re awake,” Roman greets him warmly, getting up from his seat, putting the newspaper he was reading down on the coffee table.

Jason points his gun at him. “What did you do to me?”

Roman tuts. “So distrustful, Red. You don’t remember what happened last night?”

“I do,” Jason answers curtly. “It’s what happened afterwards I want to know about.”

Roman heaves a heavy sigh, and when he speaks, disappointment is evident in his tone. “I ensured you were comfortable, obviously. Wouldn’t want my best boy waking up with a stiff neck. I dressed your wounds, my doctors took an X-ray—”

“Took an X-ray?”

“Yes, to check for broken bones. You know how volatile metas are. They also looked at your blood—”

“My blood!”

“Please stop interrupting me, Red. I was going to ask for a sample eventually, it’s part of the background check for all my employees, and your being unconscious just made it convenient. I couldn’t find anything on you, obviously, so you’re either a nobody or a ghost. Not even your face is recognisable. Who are you?”

“Like you said,” Jason says through gritted teeth, “a nobody. Where’s Terrio?”

“At the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean,” Roman answers cheerfully. “Thanks to you, my boy. Come. Let’s have breakfast. You can leave that helmet off, I’ve already seen your face, and these are my private quarters anyway—only I have access to them.”

Jason is tempted to leave it on, just out of spite, but Roman’s right, there is no point to keeping it on. He goes back to the room to leave his helmet, but he puts his thigh holsters on, so he can keep his gun close. Once he’s done, he meets Roman out in the lounge, and is then led to another hall, but this one has a large dining table set in the middle, with a ridiculous amount of food set out on various plates and bowls. Jason’s stomach rumbles as he eyes them. He takes the chair furthest away from the other end of the table, assuming Roman will sit there, but Roman follows him and ends up sitting in a chair at the side, closest to Jason. Their knees knock together accidentally under the table.

Jason levels a glare at him, but Roman just laughs softly. “It would be silly if I had to shout out you from across the room.”

“Yes, but there’s no need to sit so close you touch me,” he hisses.

“Sensitive,” Roman replies reproachfully, but he thankfully moves his chair a little farther away.

Jason digs his fork into the stack of pancakes, heaping half of it into his plate. He also grabs a few rashers of bacon, as well as the fried eggs which look cooked almost to perfection, a little crispy on the edges, just the way he likes it.

“Thought you were the only one with access to these quarters,” Jason says with his mouth full.

“I am,” Roman says, picking at a few mushrooms with his fork. Jason tries not to stare as he pushes it through the zip in his mask, into his mouth.

“Then who cooked all this food?”

“I did. Why? Is it good?”

Jason blinks, the image of Roman wearing an apron over his expensive suit suddenly imposing itself in his mind. “It’s a lot.”

“I enjoy cooking.”

“For a family of eight?”

“I give the rest to my assistants, to the few employees I see downstairs. And besides, I don’t always cook this much. It’s just that I’m entertaining a guest today.”

“I’m not a family of eight.”

“You’re a big boy. You expend a lot of energy. I’m sure you could afford one day of gluttony.”

Jason isn’t sure how he feels about Roman calling him ‘boy.’ He’s been using the word a lot today, ‘my best boy,’ ‘my boy,’ ‘big boy.’ The ‘my boy’ offsets Jason the most. It’s all a little too possessive. But, to his disgust, part of him seems to like the way it sounds, likes hearing the words in Roman’s mouth. Shoving those thoughts to the side, he tries to continue eating in peace.

“Red, my dear boy, you look stressed,” Roman says, his voice mockingly gentle. “Without the helmet, you really are rather expressive, your face gives away everything. You know you can tell me anything.”

Jason doesn’t look at him, reaching for a spinach and cheese stuffed portobello mushroom. “I thought you said you should never trust anyone.”

“I did, didn’t I? But maybe I’ve changed my mind. Maybe I want you to trust me.”

Jason chews, swallows. “Why?”

Roman lowers his utensils to the table, and, in a serious tone, says, “I’m going to tell you something, Red, but you have to promise not to panic.”

Jason stops eating, his heart pounding with anxiety, ready to grab his gun if he needs to. “What is it?”

“When I sent your blood to the labs, they found something.” Roman pauses here, waiting for Jason to react, but when he says nothing, he continues, “They found medications in your blood. Specifically, suppressants.”

Jason feels his blood run cold. “Did they.”

“I told you not to panic.”

Jason realises something then. His suppressants. He hasn’t taken them in over a day, he’s been unconscious for over ten hours. He’s been smelling like an omega the entire time, stinking up Roman’s quarters. As the waves of horror from each realisation wash over him, he finds the strength in himself to push away from the table and stand from his chair.

“Red, sit down.”

“I need my suppressants,” he hears himself say, sounding far away.

“I can get them for you.”

“No. You’re—you’re an alpha.”

“I haven’t done anything untoward, have I,” Roman replies patiently.

Jason shakes his head, though he doesn’t know if he’s agreeing or disagreeing.

“Red. Sit down,” Roman says again, more forcefully this time.

Something in him shouts to obey. He drops back down into his chair, staring blankly out at the array of food before him.

“Now I see why you froze up when I offered to get you an omega.” Roman’s tone is humoured.

“This isn’t funny,” Jason protests. “I need my suppressants.”

“And why exactly do you need them?” Roman asks, leaning forward in his chair. Jason stammers at the question, and when he can’t answer, Roman sighs loudly. “I already know what you are. My men won’t hurt you. They fear me. They fear you. Knowing your status won’t change that. You’re perfectly safe in here.”

“Please,” Jason chokes out, his mouth gone dry. “Just please.”

Roman stares at him silently for the longest time. Jason can feel his eyes boring into him, reading every line of his face, every emotion he’s feeling. He’s vulnerable, so vulnerable sitting in front of the Black Mask, an alpha crime lord who’s brought death upon hundreds, and yet, Jason can’t find the strength to run.

It’s the suppressants, he knows, they’re wearing off, making him more submissive, and less like himself. He needs his meds, and if Roman won’t let him get them, he is terrified of what will happen to him in the next few hours.

But after a few more minutes of agonising tension, finally, Roman speaks. “Tell me what you take. I’ll have my men get some and bring them to you.”

Jason breathes. “I have some at home, I can—”

“No,” Roman cuts him off sharply. “You’re not going out in that state, you reek. You’ll be assaulted. Lock yourself in the room you slept in if you think it’ll make you feel safer, but I can assure you, I’m not going to hurt you.”

There’s no arguing with him, he realises, dread settling heavy in his gut. He tells him the name of his medication, and Roman makes a call down to his men. While he’s on the phone, Jason silently makes his way back to the room, locking the door behind him. He crawls up the bed, sitting with his back against the headboard, pulling the covers up to his chest. It’s a little childish, but it makes him feel a little safer, a little more comforted. Besides, he’s got his gun in his lap in case someone decides to come smashing down the door.

He isn’t sure how long he’s there for, heart pounding away, his hope that Roman’s men are getting his medication fading by the second. Why would Roman do that for him? There’s no way it’s out of the goodness of his heart. Omegas are rare to come by, and alphas aren’t known for letting them get away once they’ve fallen into their laps. There’s no way Roman will let him take his suppressants again without there being some kind of catch.

A knock sounds on the door while Jason is thinking of possible explanations for Roman’s behaviour. Taking his gun in hand, he pads up quietly to the door and calls out, “Who is it?”

“Who else?” Roman’s voice answers dryly.

Jason unlocks the door, pulling it open slowly, his grip on his gun tightening. Roman doesn’t make any moves to get into the room, just stays where he is and offers the large box in his hands to Jason.

“Take it,” he says, thrusting it towards Jason impatiently. “Hurry, it’s heavy.”

Jason sets his gun on the table next to the door, then takes the box from him, careful not to make contact.

“That’s three years worth of suppressants in there,” Roman tells him, wiping his gloves together. “Would’ve bought more but that was all they had in stock.”

Jason stares down at the box in his hands, speechless.

“A ‘thank you’ would be nice,” Roman prompts.

“Thank you,” Jason says, the utter shock making him sound so terribly grateful it makes him cringe. He can’t keep putting so much trust in Roman, it will only end badly for him.

“Your true status won’t be discussed outside of this room. I don’t find it pertinent that my men know, and even if I did, it isn’t any of their business except mine. I am your employer,” Roman’s voice turns hard, “so don’t expect any special treatment from me just because you’re an omega. My men don’t get breaks, and you aren’t getting any either.”

“Sure. That’s fine,” Jason says, shifting uncomfortably, eyes flirting down to the box. “But tonight… could I…”

Roman sighs. “Tonight will obviously have to be an exception. Take the rest of the day off, Red. You deserve it after what you went through last night. But just one night,” he stresses, putting a single gloved finger up for emphasis. “If you aren’t here tomorrow morning I’m going to assume you ran away, and I’m sure you know what happens to men that run away.”

Jason gives an unsteady nod as his eyes flick away from Roman down to the box in his hands. He sets it down in the chair, then opens it and looks inside. The entire thing is filled with suppressant tablet boxes. He picks one out and opens it, and indeed, all sixteen tablets are intact in their seals. He pops two out and they fall into his palm, looking exactly like his normal, untampered medication.

As he’s staring suspiciously down at his palm, Roman comes up to him and hands him a glass of water.

“No need to look like they’re going to bite,” Roman tells him as Jason takes the glass around the top, avoiding Roman’s fingers curled around the middle. “I bought them from the local pharmacy, they’re legitimate.”

Well. Jason is desperate. He pops the tablets into his mouth and gulps some water down, tilting his head back. As he’s drinking, he feels—though he can’t be sure because Roman’s mask obscures them—he feels Roman’s eyes on him, on his exposed throat. He flushes furiously, and curses himself for being so easily riled.

“Good boy,” Roman murmurs quietly when he’s done.

Jason shuts his eyes and waits for the suppressants to kick in.

 


Chapter Text

Roman has him supervising the delivery of a weapons shipment the next night. It’s simple enough standing around and waiting for the trucks to come, and Roman’s men leave him well enough alone, a comforting fact after Jason’s brief spout of anxiety yesterday that they would discover the truth about him. His only instructions are to radio in once the shipment has been unloaded into the warehouse, and shoot if trouble comes their way.

He has no qualms with getting his hands dirty, getting down into the muck with the rest of Gotham’s scum. He’s lived around the bastards his whole life, knows how they work, his own fucking father worked under Two-Face. It really was just a matter of time until he followed in his footsteps.

And then, of course, Bruce Wayne picked him up, supposedly ‘changed his life for the better’ and ‘set him on the right track.’ And maybe he did, but it mostly depends on who you ask. If you ask Jason, getting beaten half to death and blown up by the Joker, then coming back to life and finding out his adoptive father had abandoned him for the newer shiner edition, his life since meeting Bruce has kind of been one giant shitfest.

In addition to that, waking up one day and finding out there was something very wrong with his body and not having a clue what to do about it—well, he thinks he is entirely justified in hating Bruce Wayne with every inch of his being.

The first truck comes after an hour, and Jason watches from his perch on top of a stack of containers as it slows and the men come to rendezvous with the driver. After a quick identity check, they wave him past, towards the front of the warehouse where they have forklifts ready to go.

Jason is idly watching them operate the machines when he sees a large black figure gliding above the men’s heads.

“Watch out!” he shouts, but the futility of his warning soon becomes apparent.

The entire operation immediately falls into chaos. The men jerk their heads up, guns shooting frantically into the sky, but the Batman simply drops a smoke grenade in the middle of the fray and a wall of grey goes up in front of Jason, obscuring his vision, separating him from Roman’s men down below.

Jason curses, and is just about to jump down and join the fight when a strong grip wraps around his bicep, a smug voice speaking into his ear.

“Don’t think I’m letting you go down there—”

Jason swings around and latches onto his assailant, getting behind them and putting them in a chokehold. He pulls down immediately, dropping his entire body weight and letting gravity do the rest.

The red glider wings pressed between their bodies tell Jason who he’s dealing with—Red Robin. He’s never dealt with this Bat up close—every glimpse he’s gotten of him has been through cameras or scopes, so he doesn’t know much about him physically—but the important thing is that he’s much smaller than Jason, and he goes down easily. Jason isn’t fond of utilising grappling too often in combat as it requires too much contact, but a punch out with one of the Bats is bound to last all night, and Jason doesn’t intend to have an intimate reunion right now.

Once he feels the fight start to leave the Bat beneath him, he unsheathes his dagger and presses it to his throat, hissing into tangled black hair, “Give me one reason why I shouldn’t.”

There’s one last desperate cling to life, the Bat’s fingers digging hard into Jason’s arm, legs kicking out uselessly. “J—J—”

Before the Bat can say anything else, a sharp pain shoots through his shoulder. He drops his dagger, shouting in surprise. Glancing back, he sees the tip of a Batarang sticking out of his jacket.

He feels the heavy weight of Batman’s presence looming over him, so he pulls out the first thing he reaches from his belt, spins quickly around, and throws it. It turns out to be a small sticky explosive, and it hits its mark in the weaker part of Batman’s armour, underneath his shoulder, attached to the chest piece.

There’s a half a second where Bruce freezes in shock, then the explosive goes off and suddenly he’s blasted off the container, falling to the ground.

“Stay down,” a voice behind him says, and Jason realises, a second too late, in his neglect of the Bat he left unattended, he had managed to get to his feet and reclaim his voice. He is kicked forcefully onto his front, and a heavy boot comes down between his shoulders before he can even struggle. “Stay.”

Jason ignores him, curling his body in on itself and turning onto his side quickly so he can buck off the foot on his back.

He suddenly feels a shock—his brain shuts down and he has no clue what has just happened—then the pain registers. He feels like every inch of his body is being hammered, contractions rippling through his muscles, and he freezes up, falling back face-first onto the ground. Tasered. He’s just been fucking tasered.

“You’ll stay down if you know what’s good for you.”

There’s a shift of weight, then Jason cries out when the Batarang lodged in his back is yanked out. He feels a flow of blood running hot over his back.

There’s a second where nothing happens, when Jason feels eyes on his back, silent in their appraisal of him.

“Get help, Jason,” he hears, before the familiar quick shht of a grappling gun being shot sounds.

He recovers quickly, and looks up just in time to see the red caped figure fly into the air before another smoke grenade goes off and a giant plume of grey wells up around him. Groaning in pain and frustration, he leaps off and tumbles to the ground, hissing when the action aggravates his wound.

Refusing to cry, he pushes his pain out in a snarl, which startles one of the men nearby, who catches Jason’s eye when he jumps.

“Get Roman,” he snaps at him.

“He’s o—on the way,” the man stammers, barely audible over the sounds of screaming and gunfire, obviously overwhelmed under the pressure of dealing with Batman. “Said to stay here and keep ‘em off till then.”

Jason nods. “We need to get them away from the shipments. If I lead them away, you think you can hold out till backup comes? I need someone to guard the trucks.”

The man nods vigorously. “Alright, alright.”

They head back towards the sounds of battle, towards the warehouse. On the ground, Batman is flitting around, incapacitating men with his fists, but Jason notices him favouring his right, and feels a rush of sadistic glee that he managed to injure him.

He aims his gun, waits for a clear shot, and manages to ping a shot off the symbol. This catches Bruce’s attention completely, and Jason feels the glare zeroing onto him.

“Come on, Bat,” he shouts tauntingly, “let’s see you stop bullying the help and use some actual skill.”

Any cockiness he has is instantly done away with the instant Batman moves. He rushes towards him, and Jason has the brief thought that this might be what a mouse sees before the talons of a bird of prey swoop towards it and ensnares it. He suppresses a shiver at the sight of the giant black shadow flying directly at him as he runs off, concentrating on leading him as far away from the area as possible. He moves as quickly as he can through the maze of containers, hyper aware of the man on his heels, so close behind he could probably reach out and grab Jason’s jacket. He pushes as hard as he can, his lungs burning with the effort, pumping his legs to their limit, but he’s soon being tackled to the ground.

They tumble, but Jason manages to get the upper hand, straddling Bruce and getting a few good punches in, directly to his scowling face.

“Jason,” he growls, spitting blood, but Jason keeps going.

Bruce reaches up and captures Jason’s wrists then, twisting violently, forcing Jason to the side and onto the ground. Jason lands with a yelp, the hard gravel digging into the wound in his shoulder.

Bruce stills at the sound. In a softer voice, he says, “Jason.” His grip loosens slightly.

It’s all Jason needs. He gets his legs between their bodies, then kicks at Bruce’s chest, dislodging his hold and getting him to fall back before he catches himself with his hand.

Bruce grunts, and that’s the only indication that Jason’s at least somewhat stunned him. Then, in a low tone, so soft it just sounds unnatural coming out of Batman’s cowl, he says, “Jason, come home.”

It’s Jason’s turn to be stunned. He pauses after pushing himself to his feet. Batman makes no moves towards him. “What?”

“Why are you working for Black Mask?”

Jason shakes his head, scoffing. “Does it matter?”

“Of course it does,” Bruce growls and Jason takes an automatic step backwards. Bruce doesn’t apologise for it, but his next few words are softer. “Roman is dangerous. You shouldn’t trust him.”

“So I should trust you instead?” Jason spits. “Fat chance.”

“That isn’t—”

Jason reaches under his jacket and activates the explosive he had snuck onto Bruce’s belt in the scuffle. The blast throws Batman several yards away, but it also manages to knock Jason off his feet. He lands hard against a container, the impact making pain flare from his shoulder.

Dazed, but desperate to escape, he throws a smoke grenade somewhere between them and forces himself up onto his shaking legs, relying heavily on the container for support.

There’s no movement through the smoke, and for a second, Jason is terrified that he’s managed to kill him.

There is movement, however, from somewhere beside him.

“I told you to stay down,” is the last thing he hears before he feels a sharp pin prick in his neck and the world goes black.

 


 

He experiences a very alarming sense of deja vu when he wakes up inside his apartment, his clothes off, blood dotting his bedsheets and carpet. He sits up, groaning when the movement aggravates whatever wounds he’s accumulated, the pain mostly originating from his back. His helmet is sat at the end of the bed, his gear and outfit folded up neatly underneath.

“What the fuck,” is all he’s able to say, sitting on the side of his bed, staring at the pile.

He sits there for about five minutes, all the while wondering if someone’s about to open the door and reveal their intentions, but the entire apartment is silent apart from his anxious breathing.

With his gun in hand, he opens the door himself and is faced with—surprise—an empty apartment. There are no other signs of anyone else being there other than the evidence left in his room—no signs of forced entry, none of his possessions stolen or moved from their places.

As he sets his gun down and makes his way into the bathroom to inspect his wounds he wonders then, who brought him home. Not Bruce, obviously, Jason knows that he’d be tied down and chemically subdued in the Cave if that were the case.

Dick? No, last he heard, Nightwing was still in Blüdhaven.

Looking into the mirror, he sees dark bruises forming along his ribs, and, twisting around to uncover why his back stings so much, he sees scatterings of bruises there too as well as a neat row of stitches in his shoulder.

“What the fuck,” he murmurs, tracing a finger along the stitch work. He needs to stop putting himself into situations where he’s knocked out and brought to places while he’s unconscious.

He runs a cold shower in an attempt to wake himself up and wash away the dried blood on his skin. While he’s shivering under the spray, he thinks back on what exactly happened last night, wracking his brains to try and remember every detail.

A lot of shouting. Bruce’s body crumpled against a container. Christ —Jason’s eyes widen as he recalls how he blasted him away. Against his wishes, his chest grows heavy with concern. Is he…?

No. No, he tells himself. Better not think about it.

As he reaches around to scrub at his back, he pulls too far and stretches the wound in his shoulder. He hisses and curses himself for not owning a shower brush. Fucking Batman.

Suddenly he remembers his other opponent, distracting him while Batman threw a fucking Batarang at his turned back.

Red Robin.

A new opponent, one who Jason is unfortunately severely unfamiliar with. He underestimated him, thought it would be easy to intimidate him and keep him down. But instead—

‘I told you to stay down.’

Anger flares up when he remembers how he kept Jason down with his boot, stepping on him like a piece of dirt. A voice in his ear telling him to stay like a dog. Then—Jason places a hand against the side of his neck as the memory comes to him—then, he tranqed Jason in the neck, stabbing him with a needle like Jason was some sort of animal that needed to be put down.

Jason realises he has his fist wrapped tight around the shower knob, his knuckles turning white. He shakes himself out it, turning the water off and stepping out.

Red Robin may have tranqed him but did he also bring him home? That wouldn’t make any sense. He would have handed him off to Batman and brought him back to the Cave.

So who…?

The uncertainty is terrifying. Someone took him off Red Robin’s hands, someone brought him to his home, someone undressed him completely while unconscious, and the same someone knows what he looks like. Whoever it is can’t be working with the Bat, so Jason makes the assumption that it’s someone working under Roman. If that is indeed the case, it is very concerning that Roman knows where he lives. There isn’t much he can do about it however, other than pack up and leave.

He sighs in frustration, wrapping himself in a towel before he heads to the kitchen to throw together some sort of breakfast.

“For fuck’s sake,” he mutters at his empty pantry.

There is a pizza box in the fridge with a few pepperoni slices left, but Jason can’t remember how old it is. He sighs as his stomach rumbles, placing a couple of slices on a plate and heating them up anyway. He doesn’t think there’s any mold on them.

As he’s sitting at his dining table and shovelling bits of old pizza into his mouth, he hears his phone ringing from the other room. He heaves another heavy sigh and retrieves it, his heart racing when he sees Roman’s name on the display. He has no idea what to expect when he answers, so he lets the call ring for a few more seconds before he answers in an attempt to gather himself, but the wait just ends up fueling his anxiety.

“Y’ello?” he answers cockily, aiming to mask the nervousness in his voice.

“Red,” Roman’s voice is deceptively low. “Mind coming in to my office for a little meeting?”

“When?”

“Now.”

Roman hangs up.

Jason lets out one last defeated sigh as he dresses and leaves, his half-finished food left out on the table.

As soon as he arrives at Roman’s tower, a few of Roman’s men lead him up to his office, their faces blank, revealing nothing, and he is made to sit down in the chair opposite the desk.

Roman is silent as he regards Jason, his mask empty, his whole body unmoving save for the steady rise and fall of his chest. He doesn’t begin speaking, not even after his men leave and shut the door behind them.

Jason takes off his helmet and holds it in his lap just so that he has something to do in the silence.

He doesn’t normally find people like Roman to be intimidating, but there’s something in the way he’s holding himself right now that has Jason’s heart thumping loudly in his ears.

“You just gonna stand there and stare all day?” he says, raising a brow at him. “I know I’m pretty and all, but I didn’t really take you for the shy type.”

“Speak for yourself. That blush on your face is saying a lot.”

Jason blinks and bites his tongue to stop himself from blurting out, ‘What?’ Instead, he composes himself and says, “Are we just gonna keep dancing around like this? Why’d you call me here, Roman?”

Roman’s head tilts slightly to one side. “I like dancing around with you, Red. You’re real fun to talk to. But maybe talking is all you’re good at.”

Jason shakes his head, uncomprehending. “What are you on about?”

He jolts in his chair as Roman smacks his desk with his hand, the sound reverberating through the empty office. “Don’t act coy with me.” He starts pacing, jabbing a gloved finger in Jason’s direction. “You just lost me five hundred guns. You have any idea how many gangs I have waiting on ‘em? Four. And now four gangs are gonna be up my ass about ‘em. All thanks to you. You were meant to be my best boy. Where the fuck were you when the Bat was taking down all my men?”

So. It turns out that Roman wasn’t the one who ordered Jason to be brought to his home. Roman has no idea what happened after Batman showed up because all his men are probably either still unconscious or in custody.

“Red Robin took me out,” Jason explains. “I was occupied with the Bat when he snuck up behind me and stuck a needle in my neck.”

“So why are you here now? Why, when I called you, did you sound like you had just woken up from a long and delightful nap in the comfort of your bed?”

Jason opens his mouth, then hesitates when trying to decide what to tell him. The truth? The truth sounds ridiculous as is. But he’s already in deep shit, might as well continue digging himself a deeper hole. “Because I woke up in my bed.”

Roman goes silent again. “You what?”

“I told you,” Jason snaps. “I got knocked out and when I woke up, I was at home.”

“Really.” Roman places his hands on the desk in front of him, leaning down so he’s close enough that Jason can smell his breath. “‘Cause all of that sounds like a bullshit way of saying you ran away.”

Jason laughs without any humour. “You have no fucking idea what I went through out there. The Bat and his sidekick went through your men like they were made of paper. I was stuck between trying to fight them off and getting your guns to safety. Do you have any idea how hard that is when you’re basically on your own because your boss’ men are just too fucking incompetent?”

“I gave you some of my best men,” Roman says, his voice low, as close to a growl as Jason’s ever heard it. “I gave you my best firepower. I believed you had the brains to know how to utilise them to their full extent.”

Jason scoffs, unable to believe that Roman’s lumping this fucking mess of a failure on him. “Well, maybe it just means you’re too fucking incompetent, doesn’t it? Maybe you shouldn’t even be leading this—”

A gloved hand flashes out and strikes Jason hard across the face. The hit is so forceful, Jason’s chin ends up hovering near his shoulder.

Roman stares down at him, his chest heaving.

Jason doesn’t breathe, doesn’t even blink, too shocked to comprehend what just happened.

Roman is the first to break the tension. “Oh, Red,” he says softly. “I’m sorry.”

His shock fades, quickly replaced by anger, boiling and bubbling in his gut. He pushes away from the desk and gets to his feet. “Fuck you. I’m done.”

“Red, come. Let me see it.”

Jason scoffs, stomping towards the doors and throwing them open only to be blocked by the two bulky bodyguards outside.

“Let me through,” he hisses.

“Red,” Roman calls him back, his tone infuriatingly conceding. “Let’s not involve them. This is between us.”

“No,” he snaps.

“Red.”

“I could kill you, Roman,” he snarls, turning on his heel and stalking back towards the other man. He prods a finger at his chest but Roman lets him and doesn’t make any move to back away. This further enrages Jason, the fact that Roman doesn’t appear to be even a little afraid of him. “I could pull out my gun right now and put one through your rotten skull.”

“So why don’t you?” Roman asks quietly.

Jason pauses.

“You don’t know, do you?” Roman leans back against his desk and crosses one leg over the other. He makes a gesture with his hand motioning for his men to leave and close the door again. Once they do, Roman sighs. “It’s because you have too much respect for me.”

Jason snorts but he doesn’t correct him. He’ll let him believe what he wants.

“You see, you act like this, but there’s something deep inside that wants to listen. That needs to listen. Your omega.”

That gets Jason’s attention. “Roman—” he starts, but Roman waves him down.

“It’s fine, they can’t hear me outside.”

Jason eyes the door doubtfully and Roman, uncharacteristically obligingly, asks, “Would you rather continue this talk upstairs?”

Upstairs. In my quarters, he means. “As if I’d go anywhere alone with you.”

There’s a sigh that escapes the mouth of Roman’s mask, and it’s so unexpectedly soft, and Roman’s next movement so slow, that Jason doesn’t see the hand until it’s resting against his cheek.

“It’s going to bruise,” he says gently.

Jason smacks his arm away. “Fuck off,” he snarls, stepping away again to put some distance between them. “You know, I was going to offer to retrieve those guns for you, but after that fucking bitch slap and this, you can go find them on your own.”

“Red.”

He ignores him, going for the doors again. This time he shoves at the guards and they immediately try to grab hold of him, but Jason hears Roman say, “Let him go,” and they do.

He feels eyes on him all the way into the elevator, then he leans back and breathes a sigh of relief as soon as the doors are shut. He isn’t sure what he would have done if Roman wasn’t so amenable to his leaving. He probably wouldn’t have agreed to let him go if he knew that Jason doesn’t intend to come back ever again. He’s had enough of playing kept boy for a gimp mask-wearing megalomaniac.

He dons his helmet before the doors open and stomps out the elevator without a second glance at the people waiting outside.

“Fucking asshole,” he mutters, mounting his bike, throwing his leg over forcefully and startling a few passersby on the sidewalk. What a waste of his goddamn time.

Ah, well. It was only a matter of time before he quit. Last night’s events and the utter disrespect he was just shown in Roman’s office have only strengthened his resolve. He’s always worked better on his own anyway.

He starts up his bike and allows the rumble of its engine to slink under his skin and into his ears until he’s left with only his thoughts and the road, the passing world blocked off by the noise.

As soon as he gets home, he works out to try and get his mind off Roman, and ends up passing out hours before nightfall.

 


 

When he opens his eyes, he’s met with white lenses and a wide smile.

“What the fuck?” he exclaims.

“Hello, Hood,” Red Robin says from his perch on Jason’s pillow. “You’re looking better.”

Jason rolls and makes a dive for his guns on top of his dresser, but Red Robin locks his arms around Jason’s and throws him to the ground. There’s a flash of a taser in Red Robin’s hand, a sharp burst of pain in his abdomen, and his whole body tenses up as what he assumes is fifty-thousand volts of electricity runs through him. Again. He collapses, his face mushed into the carpet as he moans. Something snaps around his wrists—cuffs—and he’s pulled up and back towards the bed.

Red Robin kneels over him, legs bracketing Jason’s own as he secures him to the headboard, pulling on the restraints to check if they’re secure.

“Kinky,” Jason tries to say, but it comes out more like a groan.

“Hmm, looks a little uncomfortable from where I am,” Red Robin answers, deadpan, and he gets off Jason to stand by the bed, either blissfully oblivious to Jason’s glare or ignoring him completely. “I considered buying you dinner first, but then I thought that you probably wouldn’t mind getting straight to the good part.”

“Yeah, I just love being tased,” Jason says sarcastically, his words clearer now that he’s had time to recover.

“I’m going to cut to the point here, Hood. Not that I’m not enjoying the view.” He tilts his head downwards and to the side in some act of playfulness or flirtation and Jason is abruptly reminded that he’s topless. He absolutely does not blush. “Why are you working with Black Mask?”

“What’s it matter to you?”

“You know why it matters,” he says, dropping the nice act, his words loaded with a different kind of passion. “It matters because he’s the worst crime lord in Gotham, he’s killed hundreds, has probably been the cause of thousands more deaths—and I don’t remember anything from last night causing this,” he says, gloved hand reaching for his cheek, where Roman slapped him. Jason jerks away.

“So what? I kill too. And please, I’ve gotten worse, it doesn’t matter—”

“It matters because you’re Jason Todd. The second Robin. You should be working with us.” The words are spoken so sincerely, so determinedly, so hopefully, that it makes Jason sneer.

“This again? You gonna beg me to come home like your daddy did last night? You don’t even know me, Robin, so what’s your deal?”

“I know you,” Red Robin insists. “I know you more than you think.”

Narrowing his eyes, Jason bites back the question he most wants to ask, ‘Who are you?’ He knows he won’t get an answer for that, and instead he goes with, “How did you get in here?”

“Like I said,” Red Robin says, shrugging with one shoulder, “I know you.”

“You mean you stalk me,” Jason states, the realisation hitting him full speed and his eyes widen as he remembers the shadows high on the roofs and the feeling of being watched. “You’ve been following me. It’s you. You were the one who saw my meeting with Rosso, you’re the one who told Batman about the shipment at the docks.”

Red Robin doesn’t deny it. He shrugs again, looking smug even under his mask. “Guilty as charged.”

“Why haven’t I seen you?”

“I’m very good at going undetected. I followed Batman for a year before I ever revealed myself to him.”

Jason gapes at him. “You stalked Batman.”

Red Robin laughs, loud and high, and smiles at Jason with his mouth twisted to one side. Jason stills. He knows that smile. “How did you say you found me, again?”

“I didn’t. But if you must know, I recognised you on the street. That hair stands out quite a bit, you know.” He reaches out and tugs lightly on the white streak in Jason’s hair.

Jason would bat him away if his arms were free. “On the street?”

“Stop fishing for my identity.”

“I just wanna know the name of the guy who broke into my house while I was sleeping.”

“Red-duh Ruh-biin,” he enunciates slowly, tongue and lips flicking the syllables patronisingly.

“Ri-ight,” Jason drawls back at him, unamused.

There’s a flash of a smirk again—Jason is hit with that flicker of familiarity for another moment—then Red Robin looks away. “You haven’t cleaned your carpets yet,” he says, pointing with the toe of his boot down at the blood stains beside the bed. “Or your sheets. If you don’t do it soon, they’ll be tougher to get out.”

“I know how blood is,” Jason snaps. Then, “So it was you.”

“What was me?”

“You’re the one who brought me back last night.”

He receives a bemused smile. “Of course it was me. Who else would be so courteous as to take you home?”

“I wouldn’t call sticking a needle in my neck then dragging my unconscious body through the streets courteous. Psychotic, maybe.”

The smile turns cold. “I didn’t drag your body through the streets. I have a car of my own. And it’s a little rude to call the guy who took you out of a nasty fight as well as away from the Batman’s clutches psychotic.”

“What do you want? A thank you card? A kiss on the cheek?”

“None of those things. I would like your trust, however.”

Jason laughs disbelievingly. “My trust? You think I should really trust the guy who stalked me, who just happens to know where I live, who knocked me out and took me away from the Bat for his own nefarious plans? I’d be more likely to trust Black Mask than you.”

A scoff. “There’s nothing nefarious going on here. And Black Mask? Right. Do you think someone like him would take you home and tuck you into bed?”

“Wouldn’t be the first time,” Jason mutters under his breath.

“What?”

Jason decides to reign the conversation in, pull it back to something that might get him closer to an answer. “Why did you bring me here? Why didn’t you take me back to Bruce?”

“I told you. I want to gain your trust. And would you ever want to go back to Bruce anyway?”

“You don’t make sense,” Jason says with a shake of his head. “Why do you want my trust? I have no desire to work with you nor any of the others. I’m your enemy, for god’s sake, I almost killed you last night, I could have killed you. You shouldn’t even be here, let alone want to be here. Unless of course, this is all part of some plan to bring Bruce down, but coming from you? I doubt it.”

“You don’t want to bring Bruce down.”

“You don’t know what I want.”

“There must be a lot of things you want. I know for a fact that hurting Bruce isn’t one of them.”

Jason opens his mouth to reply then immediately shuts it again. This entire conversation has just been them going around in circles, and he doesn’t see it ending with any kind of resolution. It’s only when Red Robin smiles slyly that he realises his silence could be taken for a confession.

Not one to be one-upped, he sneers, “Well, I know for a fact that Bruce wouldn’t be too happy to find out you’ve been spending time hanging with me at my apartment. I may not be on talking terms with him, but I don’t think he’d object to me dropping a little message on him about his precious son, especially when said son has been sneaking around behind his back, snatching up wanted criminals from under his nose and hiding them away.”

He hits his mark. The next words spoken are cold. “I’m not his son.”

Something niggles at the back of his mind—a memory from years ago. Talia, reluctant but under a sense of duty, deciding that Jason deserved the truth, had given him a series of photographs and a name. A new Robin. A replacement. So soon after Jason had died. Jason had cried for an entire night after that, but had burnt the photos and forgotten the name soon after.

He wasn’t the source of Jason’s ire, the reason he woke up every night in a cold sweat. No, Bruce Wayne was the only man deserving of his rage, and he was not going to be distracted by a tiny boy who knew nothing about Jason and had nothing to do with his death.

But the boy is in front of him now, planted very firmly and stubbornly in Jason’s apartment, inserting himself into his life—so Jason regrets that he can’t remember the name given to him so long ago. And he remembers that he hasn’t actually kept up to date with the goings on at the Wayne household, has, on the contrary, avoided hearing about them completely. He has no idea if there have been any news articles about adoptions of charming black-haired orphans. Jason could smack himself. If he had been keeping track, if he had even bothered to read one of those stupid gossip magazines at the supermarket, he might have some idea of who this Red Robin character is.

Jason paints a smirk on his face to mask his uncertainty with the whole situation. “Sure. Bet you’re a blue-eyed beauty under that mask. You’ve got the black hair, pale skin. Just like your brothers.”

“You’re not my brother.” The words are spoken with less contempt, and are rather more neutral, as if stating a fact.

“Of course not. You’re far too obsessed with me for it to be purely familial.”

Red Robin’s face wipes itself of any emotion. “Perhaps I should leave and come back when you aren’t feeling so hostile.”

“Okay. Leave. But believe me, if you decide to come back, you are not going to be welcomed with open arms. I’ll be ready for you. And you aren’t going to have your daddy around to help you.”

“So very hostile,” Red Robin says, lip curling up to reveal the whites of his teeth, and the way he says it, the sound of it—Jason is suddenly reminded of the leather seats of a flashy black car and the same infuriating smile.

‘So very stressed.’

“You.” The word is barely above a whisper, but Jason feels enough contempt rumbling under his skin that it might as well be a snarl.

“What was that?” Red Robin says, tilting his head to one side, a pleasant expression on his face.

He should have known. Why hadn’t he known? Tim appeared out of nowhere, followed him home, insisted on taking him out and learning his identity. Bruce shouldn’t know where Jason lives, and neither should Red Robin but he does because he’s Tim, and now Bruce knows and Jason’s home base is compromised.

“Ah,” Tim says, seeming to sense the reason for Jason’s shock. He begins pulling at his mask, revealing a face he hasn’t seen in months underneath. Wispy black bangs fall over the sides of his face, framing smiling bright blue eyes.

Tim. The boy from the bar. Smiling at him with that same damned, infuriating smile.

Jason’s vision suddenly fills with red. He jerks against his restraints, and his arm almost extends out enough to hit Tim’s face, but he jumps out of Jason’s reach.

“I can’t believe you truly didn’t know,” he says, and Jason looks up through the hair in his eyes and sees him shaking his head. “Have you been living under a rock these past few years?”

“Get back here,” Jason growls. “I’m going to kill you.”

“So when you saw me at that bar, why did you stare?” Tim continues, looking genuinely curious now. “I thought for sure you’d recognised me, but afterwards you acted like I was a stranger. I mean, I suppose I am to you, but I’ve known who you were for years, surely you’d know who took up the mantle after you?”

“I don’t care about my replacement,” Jason hisses, and Tim’s face falls.

“I didn’t replace you,” he says softly. “I’ve never replaced you, you’re still Bruce’s second Robin, his second son, there’s no way I could ever replace what you meant to him. I mean, I looked up to you for years—”

“I don’t care,” Jason snaps. “I don’t care.” He stares disbelievingly at the face of the boy he trusted, who he gave his name and number to, trying to reconcile him with the one who tased him, kept him on the ground, tranqed him, and tied him to his own bed. The betrayal stings worse than the rage. “Get out,” he demands.

“I’m sorry. I’m sorry I didn’t tell you, I was going to. If last night hadn’t happened, I would’ve told you eventually, I wouldn’t have let you find out like this—”

“Stop, just stop.” Jason shakes his head in an attempt to clear it of the angered muddle it’s in. “You’re a liar, you’re—you’re one of them, you’re a Bat. You’re all the fucking same.”

“Let me explain—”

“I’m not listening. Whatever sick game you’re trying to play with me, I want no part of it. I’ve avoided your pack for years, rebuilt my own life by myself, I’m not letting this all fall apart just because some little wannabe with a latex fetish wanted to play mind games with the failure of a pack omega.”

Tim looks like he’s been slapped, his face a pathetic mix of shocked and pained. “That’s not true—” he insists. “Jason, you mean more than that—”

“Get out!”

Tim blinks at him a few times, the shock on his face shifting into something akin to disappointment, but Jason growls and it starts him into moving again, leaving Jason’s bedroom swiftly.

It’s only when he hears the front door close that he realises that he should’ve asked for the keys to the cuffs.

 


 

One broken headboard later, Jason is free and hunched over his tablet, reviewing the security footage from the cameras scattered throughout his apartment. Tim hadn’t erased any data—either because he didn’t see the point or he hadn’t gotten to it yet—so Jason sees everything from last night, including the three hours it takes for Tim to leave after stripping Jason down and suturing his wounds.

On the screen, Tim was apparently making himself at home, wandering through every room and making it his mission to touch every single one of Jason’s belongings. The smug creep under the Red Robin costume is so obviously Tim, sharing the same mannerisms and stature, it embarrasses Jason that he wasn’t able to figure it out earlier.

The strength and training required to take down a man almost twice his size doesn’t come from just anywhere, and the gall to follow Jason home and pursue him relentlessly—who else? Who else would be so gutsy, other than a Bat? Other than a Wayne?

And it is obvious now that he is a Wayne. The flashy car, the uppity speech, the polished looks—he is money, and he has grown up with it, been born with it, Jason can tell. As the security footage plays in the background, Jason pulls up a quick search for Tim’s name and finds numerous articles about his parents’ deaths and subsequent adoption under Bruce Wayne. The adoption must have been kept under wraps, because he can not recall the media picking it up and spreading it in the gossip magazines like they usually would. Either way, media coverage or no, he was such a fool for finding Tim too irrelevant to look into, to not give his name a quick search once he learnt it. If he had only known that Tim was indeed Timothy Drake-Wayne, he would have immediately up and left, and this entire mess could have been avoided.

As it is, it’s too late now. He has to find somewhere else to live before Bruce comes charging in, ready to knock Jason out and take him back to the manor. It won’t be hard to find a place near the city’s centre, however finding an apartment with neighbours who don’t mind him coming home covered in scratches and blood, or who don’t mind his screaming at night, will be incredibly difficult. His best bet is to stick to the outer edges—preferably very, very far away from Batman and Red Robin’s usual patrol areas.

He sighs forlornly, because this apartment is all those things, and he is being forced to give it up. Before he can start truly sulking however, a knock sounds at his door. He freezes, then remembering that his tablet is right there still playing security footage from his cameras, picks it up and pulls up the camera outside his door, dragging the timeline over to play the live camera feed.

It’s Mrs. Evans. As if on cue, her voice floats in through the door, “Jason, I think your mail might have gotten into mine again.”

“Coming, Mrs. Evans,” he calls back, setting his tablet aside and getting to his feet. He opens the door, saying, “You don’t have to keep knocking you know, you can slide the letters under, I don’t—” He stops.

Mrs. Evans is smiling, but it’s all wrong, like she’s forcing herself to keep her lips pulled up. Her eyes are wide, wet with unshed tears, and when Jason looks closer, he sees that she’s shaking.

“What—” he starts before a gloved hand appears from the side and roughly snatches her arm, pulling her away.

Jason pulls out his gun, stepping out into the hallway, and aims it right in the face of a thug with a black mask. There are two other men behind him, each with their guns pointed in Jason’s direction, and the one who snatched Mrs. Evans away has an arm around her and knife held to her neck.

“Jason.”

The voice comes from behind all the men congregated in his hallway, but Jason knows who it is all the same.

“Roman,” he says, in acknowledgment. He doesn’t dare lower his gun.

The men part after a quiet order, and there he is, in all his three-piece glory, his presence so large and commanding that he seems to fill up the entire hallway. He adjusts his cufflinks casually, and when he looks up, catching Jason’s eye, he chuckles and tilts his head to one side playfully.

“I told you what happens to men who run away from me.”

Chapter Text

Jason smiles, because no matter how this goes, he’s getting out of this unscathed. Roman’s henchmen are no match for him, and though he has no idea of Roman’s combat skill, he’s sure he can distract him enough to get away. Only it’s Mrs. Evans that he needs to protect, and Jason, for all his confidence in himself, cannot think of a way to get her out safely.

“You know, you never actually specified,” Jason says, leaning back against his door frame, as though he’s having a casual conversation with his neighbour.

“What’s that?” Roman asks, tilting his head to one side, playing along, and Jason knows right then that Mrs. Evans is still alive only because Roman’s in one of his rare good moods.

Continuing on, Jason shrugs a shoulder and says, “You never told me what you do to men who run away. I mean, I’ve seen you shove them into cars and gas them, but it seems like you also enjoy following them home and threatening the harmless little ladies that live next door. So which is it?”

A soft click sounds from somewhere under Roman’s mask. Jason’s mind helpfully supplies the picture of his tongue flicking off the roof of his mouth behind lipless teeth. “Oh, Red, my boy, it depends.”

Thoroughly disgusted and distracted by the course of his own thoughts, he takes a little longer to process the words and respond. Roman seems to detect Jason’s discomfort, though he can’t tell exactly what’s causing it he knows it’s because of him; he sniggers a little under the mask. Jason ignores his laughing and asks, “On what?”

“On how much I like them.”

“Oh, Roman, I’m flattered,” Jason says mockingly, fluttering his lashes. “Three whole men and a hostage? You must like me a lot. I mean, do you always come collect ‘em personally?”

“Only the favourites,” Roman replies evenly.

“And it hasn’t even been a day,” Jason continues, because he just loves digging himself a deeper grave. “You must’ve missed me a lot, huh?”

“You wanna keep listening to me talk about how much I like you, or do you want to get out of this dingy hallway anytime soon? Because I can talk a lot, Jason.”

It’s one word, but Jason’s breathing stops at the sound of his name in Roman’s mouth.

Roman notices his shock, and the ensuing smugness of his tone gives rise to more unease. “Oh, yes, I almost forgot. Your lovely neighbour Adora here was kind enough to tell us your name, Jason,” he says again, slowly, deliberately, his mouth caressing the word, and Jason can’t suppress the shiver that crawls across his skin. “To be honest, I penned you for an Aiden. Maybe an Alec. But Jason, he cocks his head to the side, and Jason can feel his gaze travelling all over his face, “I suppose it suits you.”

It shouldn’t affect him, it shouldn’t matter because Jason Todd died long ago, but he can’t help the anxiety he feels knowing that Roman has a part of him now, the slimy disgust he feels at Roman’s tongue sliding out the syllables, his lipless mouth handling Jason’s identity so carelessly. Roman shouldn’t know his name, he shouldn’t be speaking it for all his men to hear, he shouldn’t have it. He feels… owned.

Mrs. Evans—or Adora, Jason doesn’t think he’s actually heard her first name before, it’s lovely—makes a noise that sounds like a whimper, and Jason’s attention snaps back to her. She hasn’t been able to hold back the tears, and is openly weeping now; the sick bastard behind her is grinning sadistically.

“Okay, well, since she’s shown you such kindness, maybe you should let her go, yeah?” he says, attempting to sound reasonable, though he knows reason has never worked that well with someone like Roman. “You’ve been making her stand out here for long enough. It’s cold.” He makes a slight move for her but Roman’s men grip her tighter and pull her away.

“Oh, no,” Roman tuts. “I can’t let her go just yet. Not until I’m sure of something.”

Jason clenches his jaw, frustrated at how close he is to Mrs. Evans and yet so far away. “And what would that be?”

“Why don’t you come back to the car and let us talk. I’d prefer a little privacy. And, if you knew the topic of conversation I wish to speak about, I know you’d want a little privacy, too.”

“And what if I refuse?”

“Jason,” Roman says again, indulgently, obviously enjoying the way Jason flinches every time he says it. “I can be a very patient man when I want to be, but you’ve seen firsthand what happens when I get pissed off.”

As if to emphasise his point, the man with the knife presses it harder against Mrs. Evans’s neck. A drop of blood wells out, the bright crimson holding Jason’s gaze as it slides down her skin.

“Okay,” Jason says, raising his arm as if that’s somehow going to stop the knife from piercing her skin. He lowers it again placatingly when the man glowers at him. “Okay, I’ll come with you. Just don’t hurt her.”

“So heroic, Jason,” Roman coos. “I never knew you had it in you.”

“I don’t like seeing innocent people get hurt. It’s called decency, Roman.”

Roman hums thoughtfully. “Interesting concept. It’s too bad I’m not a decent man. Cuff him and bring him to the car.”

Jason lets the other men come forward and bind him, unfazed as he knows that he can easily escape in under twenty seconds. The anxiety he feels for Mrs. Evans’s safety however does not leave. He murmurs a quiet, “I’m sorry,” to her as he is lead away, but she does not utter a sound in return. The last thing he sees before they turn the corner is her being lead back into her apartment by the guy with the knife still pressed against her neck.

Roman leads the way to the car, and Jason is subjected to staring at the back of his leather mask until he is shoved into the back of a modified Rolls Royce, Roman sitting opposite him, and locked in.

“So, Roman,” Jason says once he’s adjusted himself into a comfortable position, legs spread obnoxiously wide, determined not to make this easy for him, “I know you didn’t just put me in here because you missed seeing my beautiful face. What the hell do you want?”

“You’re smart, Jason,” Roman replies, unperturbed by the amount of space Jason is taking up. He adjusts his cufflinks, one leg crossed over the other so Jason can have a proper gander at his expensive Italian leather shoes. “I’m sure you know what I want.”

Oh, Jason knows. He knows that his status as an omega has doubled his worth in Roman’s eyes—but not in a ‘Diverse representation for the business’ kind of way and more like ‘A young, fertile omega who can also double as a bodyguard will fetch a high price on the black market’ way. He doesn’t trust Roman, he never will, and agreeing to stay employed under him will only end in his death or being sold off to some rich pervert.

“I get you don’t want me to quit, but tough luck, I already did,” Jason says. “I walked in without fanfare, I walked out the same way. I didn’t leave any messes for you to clean up, I brought more to you in a few months than all of your men will do in a lifetime. But tell you what, I can give you a few numbers if you’re looking for new guys—”

“No one quits,” Roman cuts him off, his voice almost lowered to a hiss. “You either die on the job, you die by my hand, or you end up doing life without parole in Blackgate, but no one— no one quits. I told you, Jason, you’re not getting any exceptions just because you happen to be an omega. I want you back at my tower. I want you there all pretty and dolled up like you usually are and ready for my orders. I want your obedience, your attention, your loyalty. I want to hear you say that you’ll do all of these things. Right now.”

Jason smiles genially at him. “And what if I don’t want to do that?”

Roman doesn’t hesitate. “Then Adora back there gets one in the head and one in the chest and you get to explain all the mess to your landlord.”

Jason’s mouth snaps shut on his next retort. Fuck. This is why he avoids civilians, too many risks come about when he involves himself with them. Moving to a dingy apartment in the bad part of town was meant to make his no-relationship rule easier, as he thought he was isolating himself from decent society, but of course he got stuck with the nice old lady next door who would always bring him food and make conversation instead of literally any other low-life asshole in the building.

A long sigh hisses out through the zipper on Roman’s mask. “Jason. You’re so talented, you’re strong, you’re smarter than every single one of my men, and you have so many wonderful skills, but you somehow manage to simultaneously be the worst employee I’ve ever hired. It’s easy to follow orders. Just say, ‘Yes, sir’. Agree to come back, and I’ll spare her life.”

“Roman,” he says, shaking his head in disbelief, “I’m not working for you. You can keep my last paycheck, you can take all your money, but I’m not coming back.”

Roman stills; Jason can feel his glare even through the dark holes in his mask. “Don’t be stupid. I’m not bluffing. I’m going to kill this fucking hag and her blood will be on your hands.”

“This isn’t a great way to win my loyalty, Roman.”

Crooking his head, Roman says, “No? Then what would you have me do? Grovel? Get down on my knees and beg?”

“I’m not going to pretend that I don’t like the sound of that, ‘cause I do, but I know you won’t. You’re too up your own ass.” He knows he’s testing the bounds of Roman’s patience, but Jason can’t just give in to his demands and go back to working for him. But dancing around a proper answer instead of flat-out saying no and getting Mrs. Evans shot seems like the better option.

“Am I? Then what does that make you? Too proud to save that little old lady’s life?” Roman laughs. “A little forgiveness is all I’m asking for. Give me one more chance. Come back with me. I promise I won’t hit you again.”

Jason wants to laugh at the empty platitude. “Somehow I don’t believe that.”

Roman raises his right hand in the air as if taking an oath, crossing a finger of his other hand in an X over his chest. “Cross my heart,” he says. “You only took me by surprise. None of my workers have ever spoken to me the way you have.”

“Because you’d kill them. But I’m not afraid of you.”

“Good. I like that you aren’t afraid, it makes you better than the rest of them. It makes you stronger.”

No. He’s lying. Roman hates that Jason isn’t afraid of him. Jason knows how Roman works, and he’s learnt a lot about him in the past few months working under him. He knows that Roman rules with fear, he subjugates everyone around him using it.

“Is that really why you want to keep me around?” Jason questions. “Me being an omega has nothing to do with it?”

“Of course. Your skills are unparalleled, Jason. I wanted you around even before I found out what you are. Believe me, I couldn’t care less about your status.”

He’s still lying. Jason knows he is. As soon as he lets his guard down, Roman is going to take advantage of him. And then… and then Jason is on his own. If Roman attacks him, if he goes back on his word, Jason has no one to turn to for help. But does he have any other choice? If he doesn’t go, an innocent woman will be murdered. If he does go… he at least has a chance of bringing down Roman before he can blackmail him. The answer is obvious.

“I’ll do it,” he mutters.

“What was that?” Roman asks.

“I’ll do it,” Jason repeats, louder. “I’ll come back.”

“Wonderful,” Roman says, clasping his fingers together. “And I take it you understand what happens if you disobey me again?”

“Yes,” Jason grits out through his teeth.

“Wonderful.” Roman presses the intercom button at his side and speaks to the driver. “Take us back to the tower. And tell Walters to let the old bitch go.” He leans back in his seat with a content sigh as the driver starts the car. “I’m so glad you’ve chosen to come back, Jason. You would’ve made things so much harder for me if you hadn’t.”

Jason resists the urge to roll his eyes, looking out at his neighbourhood going by as the car crawls past. He’s going to have to move out, to move somewhere more isolated so as not to put anyone in danger again. There’s no guarantee that Roman won’t eventually hurt Mrs. Evans anyway, but until he gets her somewhere safe, Jason can play the obedient soldier so Roman has no incentive to harm her.

“I am sorry I slapped you.”

Jason widens his eyes, not believing what he’s heard. “You’re sorry?” he says, scoffing.

Roman says nothing of Jason’s reaction. “You’ve become like a son to me. I usually do have more self-control than that, I’m sorry you had to see that side of me. The kind that lashes out without thinking. After giving it some thought, I think it’s just all the stress from losing that last shipment. But really, that’s easily rectified. In fact, I might have found a way for you to make it up to me.”

Jason resists the urge to roll his eyes. Of course Roman still believes that disaster of a night was his fault. “Really. And what’s that?”

“I’ll need to confirm a few things, then I’ll tell you.”

Jason sinks back into his seat, letting his head loll to the side and staring out the window as he contemplates his future under Roman’s employment. This is obviously not going to be a long-term career. Though Roman may like reassuring him about his job security, his own safety is at stake. Roman is unpredictable—he might one day decide to kill Jason, to sell him off or—he grimaces at the thought—to keep him for himself, like a pet. Jason has to kill him. He doesn’t know how or when, but he knows that he has to.

The only problem is the chaos that will arise following Roman’s death. Half the gangs in Gotham are under Roman’s control. If that control is taken away—Jason doesn’t want to know what might happen afterwards in the scramble for power.

The car slows as they enter the tower’s underground garage. Rows of shiny black cars line the lot, but it’s empty aside from that—there’s no one else down here. Jason feels relief—at least only a few people have seen his face. He wants to keep that number as low as possible.

The driver turns towards the elevators, slowing as they near them. Jason raises his bound arms. “Wanna release me, boss, or are you gonna parade me through the tower like a circus freak?”

Roman pats his knee gently as the car stops. “A moment, Jason,” he says as he gets out.

Jason tenses at the touch, his hands clenching into fists, before he follows after him out, intending on chewing him out for touching him. “You’re really getting on my nerves, Rom—”

He freezes. Roman’s pulled out his gun.

The car behind has stopped too, doors swung open, the men climbing out of their seats and looking between Roman and Jason.

“Walters,” Roman calls, and the man who held his knife to Mrs. Evans’s throat comes forward. “Take his cuffs off.”

Walters does as he’s told, unlocking Jason’s cuffs, and stepping back to hear his next order. Roman doesn’t give him any. He raises his gun—

—and shoots Walters square in the face. Jason doesn’t even realise what’s happened until a second after, the shock preventing him from processing it in the moment. Roman’s other men also don’t seem to register it immediately, they stand looking alarmed, but they don’t do much else. It’s only when Roman turns and shoots a second man without warning that they start to move.

“W—wait! Wait! Boss!” the third shouts, tripping over himself in an attempt to back away.

Jason looks away when Roman puts the barrel to the man’s forehead and a shot rings out through the garage.

The driver of the car has gotten about twenty feet away, screaming in fear, but Roman aims at his back, shooting twice and pinning him once in the shoulder and another in the back of his neck.

Roman stalks back to the Rolls Royce, opening the passenger side door and aiming his gun at the driver who hasn’t moved since the shooting started, probably feeling safe in the assumption that he wouldn’t be harmed since he’s Roman’s personal driver.

“Roman,” Jason hears him scream, “Roman, Roman, wait —!”

One shot and the sound of splattering against glass, followed by an eerie silence, has Jason’s gut crawling with the realisation that every single one of these men is dead.

He’s staring at the ground when Roman walks back over to him, and he feels the heat of his gun as Roman clasps his arms, still holding it in his hand. He looks up and sees black holes where eyes should be staring at him.

“See, Jason, now the only two people who know where you live are you and me. I would sacrifice ten of my men, a hundred, just to show you that you can trust me.”

He says it with such sincerity, soft like he’s speaking to a lover, and Jason comes to the realisation that he’s been falling into the trap of thinking Roman is sane. He isn’t, he is very far from it, but he covers it up with charms and pretty words, and Jason loathes to think it, but he thinks he’s been falling for it because he’s an omega.

Roman still hasn’t let go of him. “Jason,” he says softly, “don’t tell me you’re afraid.”

And that’s it, Jason realises, that’s the point he was trying to make. Jason is afraid of him, and Roman has just proved it.

“You don’t need to be afraid of me,” he continues, stroking his hands up and down Jason’s arms. “Stay loyal to me, and I’ll protect you with my life.”

Jason feels his chest grow heavy with despair.

Eventually Roman calls a cleaning crew to dispose of the bodies, and while they’re on their way, he and Jason take his private elevator up to his quarters. He sits Jason down at the dining table while he cooks a meal in his kitchen, and sets two plates down, along with a bottle of red wine and two glasses.

He chatters away while he eats, and Jason only hears some of it, his thoughts swimming with images of the men lying dead in the garage, the sounds of gunshots and guts splattering echoing in his ears.

Roman leans back in his chair after finishing his meal, and Jason eyes his permanent grin underneath his leather mask. “Wasn’t that good? I’m sure you must have been hungry after such a long day.”

Jason has barely touched his steak, but he’s picked it apart enough that it looks like he’s at least eaten some of it. “It was great,” he says obligingly, putting his fork down. “But I should go home. It’s midnight and I should sleep if I’m going to work tomorrow.”

“You have a bed here,” Roman says, and Jason glances at the door leading to the room where he woke up half-naked one morning and his life was turned on its head.

“My equipment is back home,” Jason insists, speaking quietly, fearing the backlash he might receive from Roman for trying to defy him.

“I have all the equipment you might need here. State of the art, only the best for my boy. Guns, armour, you know I’ve even had my labs make you copies of your helmet in case you should ever need them.”

Copies of his helmet. Jason has been too careless, too trusting, letting Roman learn so much about him.

“Thank you for the offer,” he says, “but I only use my equipment. It’s what I’m used to.”

“Fine,” Roman says, obviously annoyed but doing his best to mask it. “Fine, go home. But as I said, I want you back here tomorrow morning.”

“And I’ll be here,” Jason says. “I’m not going to run.”

“I don’t believe you will,” Roman agrees.

He walks Jason to the elevator, but before Jason can push the button to call it, Roman turns to face him, blocking the way.

“A word before you go.”

Jason wants to leave now, but he takes a deep breath and waits for Roman to speak.

“Jason,” he says, tone gentle, and Jason wants to tell him to stop, “I do hope you’ll learn to trust me again. There are some things in our natures that we just can’t fight. Omegas are subservient, alphas are dominating. I’m not saying that that is the way it should be, that is just the way it is. I’m not saying that you must be subservient, but sometimes our weakest traits have a way of showing through.”

Jason stares at him. “That’s great and all, but what does this have to do—”

“There’s a reason they don’t let omegas in positions of power,” Roman continues. “They believe that omegas can’t lead, can’t take control like alphas can because they believe that omegas are ruled by their emotions. But I don’t believe that. You are strong, Jason. You’re smart enough to lead. You aren’t afraid to back down from a fight.”

Unsure where this is going, Jason stays silent and waits for Roman to finish.

“I don’t want you to ever change who you are, Jason. You’re perfect. You are everything alphas, omegas, and betas alike, should strive to be.”

“That’s kind of you, Roman—”

Roman holds up a finger and immediately Jason quietens.

“However, when I see my power being threatened, being mocked, I can’t help but feel the need to defend it. It is in an alpha’s nature. I suppose, in a way, it is alphas who are ruled by their emotions. I am sorry I slapped you, Jason, but just know that I regretted it as soon as I did.” He steps aside and pushes the button for Jason, the doors opening after a second. Jason steps inside and just as the doors shut, Roman says, with a little wave, “I’ll see you tomorrow.”

The doors slide shut and Jason is finally alone.

 


 

Things go almost back to normal over the next few days.

He comes in, does what Roman tells him to, then goes home to his new apartment across the city. It’s a seedy, run-down old thing, and he hates it but it’s also the perfect place for him.

Far, far away from Roman’s tower, and out of the way of any Bat patrols.

No one brings up what happened in the garage of Roman’s tower. Whether most of his employees are unaware, or whether there’s some sort of unspoken agreement never to bring it up, Jason isn’t sure.

Roman becomes incredibly chipper, and one day, he greets Jason with an arm around his shoulder. As they travel through the building to Roman’s office, Jason feels the stares of all his employees burning holes in his back. When they reach Roman’s floor, Roman even slows to tell his men that together they’re going to achieve great things.

“He’s the son I never had,” Roman announces, “we’re alike in almost every way.”

Jason holds back from saying anything before they’re alone in his office. Roman is humming a tune as he flits around, arranging paperwork and preparing his office for the day. Jason quietly watches him from his seat.

“Why did you do that?” he eventually asks, once Roman has settled down at his desk.

“Do what?”

“Why did you show me off like that? Telling everyone I’m like your son. You haven’t done that before.”

Roman twirls his pen around his fingers as he stares up at Jason. “Do you have some sort of rule against me doing that?”

“I told you I didn’t want to be paraded around—”

“Is that what that was? Did I parade you around? Was I not simply expressing my joy… my pride? Can’t a man just express his feelings at getting his boy back?”

“Boy…?” Jason echoes. “Roman, I’m not your boy. I’m your employee.”

“Do you think I treat all my employees the way I treat you? Should I bring half a dozen men down to the garage again?”

Roman makes a horrible rasping noise that’s probably meant to be a wheezing laugh and Jason feels a little horrified to learn what his idea of a joke is.

“What does that mean?” Jason questions. “Why are you treating me like your favourite?”

Roman sighs heavily. “Like I said, I see myself in you. You have a lot of potential, Jason, and I want to see you grow.”

Jason feels the frustration pull at his chest. “So what? You’re desperate to keep me around because I remind you of you?”

“Mmm,” Roman hums. “Perhaps, more accurately, I see someone I could trust with my business. My family.”

Jason blinks. “What?”

Roman puts his pen down. “Never mind. I can see you’ve not yet warmed to the idea. On to your next job.” Jason is still stuck on the bizarre idea of being Roman’s potential heir, but Roman is intent on moving on from the topic. He pulls out a folder and lays it on the desk. He flips through it, eventually finding a photo of a man that Jason’s never seen before. He holds it up for Jason to see. “There’s a… business partner of mine—Davis—he owes me a lot of money. He’s also been stirring up a lot of trouble, getting the cops’ attention. Been messing up girls at his—well, my clubs. Been letting the customers get away with too much. He’s careless. I want you to scare him a little.”

As he stares at the photo, he doesn’t see anything that would make the mission difficult for one of Roman’s other guys. The man looks like any other shady businessman, cowardly and easily intimidated. “Why do you need me exactly? Can’t you just send in cronie one and cronie two to shake him up a little?”

Roman sighs, tilting his head as he slides the photo back into the folder and closes it. “I would, but this is a sort of… delicate situation. You see, these clubs he’s started up, they’re omega clubs.”

Jason stills. “I thought you said you weren’t hiring me because of what I am.”

“And I’m not. I just see an opportunity to utilise what you have, what you are.”

“And what? What do you expect me to do? Walk in and seduce him? I’m the Red Hood, Roman, I look the exact opposite of how an omega should look.”

“I don’t want you to seduce the old bastard,” Roman says, disgust colouring his tone. “I doubt you’re his type anyway. I said I want you to scare him. Sending you in will be more comforting for the girls rather than sending in a pack of knothead alphas.”

“So you want me to what? Wave a gun in his face and tell him to stop?”

Roman waves a hand dismissively. “I’m leaving that part up to you. Show Davis exactly who’s running the place. Just try not to make a mess and don’t get any girls killed, it’ll cost too much to replace ‘em.”

“Great. Good plan,” Jason mutters sarcastically.

“I think tonight would be the best time to pay the club a visit,” Roman continues, ignoring him. “Davis is always there from seven, keeping an eye on things. Sometimes he likes to sample the goods, and that’s where things get nasty. He likes to get a little rough, and sometimes he takes it too far. He’s caught police attention, which, as you can guess, isn’t good for me.”

“You don’t want me to kill him?” Jason guesses. He’d much prefer to get rid of Davis quick and clean, rid Gotham of one more rapist scum.

“Not if you can help it,” Roman says. “It’s too hot already, the police’ll definitely be on my ass if they found out he’s been murdered. Nothing that my lawyers won’t be able to handle, but I don’t have the time to deal with that right now.”

“Why not?” Jason asks.

Roman pauses. “Because I’m a very busy man,” he says slowly. “Once you’ve taken charge of a business, you’ll understand.”

There it is, Jason knows Roman is hiding something from him, but he has no idea what it is. All that shit about trust and becoming an heir have no weight—Roman’s not going to tell him about whatever it is he’s got going on behind the scenes, and his lack of hesitance in killing an entire group of his men in front of Jason has just solidified the fact that Jason isn’t safe, no matter what Roman tells him. Roman could have an actual blood son, and Jason doesn’t doubt for a second that Roman would stab him in the back the moment he thinks he’s been crossed by his kin.

“Now,” Roman says, back to being his frighteningly uncharacteristic chipper self, “do you have any questions?”

The rest of the morning is uneventful, and Jason is sent back home to prepare for the night. Preparation doesn’t mean very much though—it means sharpening his knives, cleaning out his guns, and studying the layout of the club, and he finishes all of that within a few hours, so he goes out to stock up his fridge and pantry. He thinks about Mrs. Evans, the fear on her face, the blood on her neck, and though he is very tempted to check up on her, he decides against it, figuring that it’s for the best that he doesn’t interact with her again. She probably doesn’t want to see his face again anyway.

He makes some grilled cheese sandwiches for lunch, happy for the first time in a long time that he’s cooking for himself again, rather than eating take-out or being cooked for by crazed crime lords, he ends up finishing the entire loaf of bread he bought.

He decides to go out to the grocery store again to buy another loaf or two, since he has nothing else to do. The day is bright and clear, a rarity in Gotham, and he’s been walking everywhere to take every chance he can get to soak up the sun. He dons his sunglasses and cap and heads down the block to the store, greeting the nearest cashier inside with a wave. He heads down the back to the bakery, grabbing two loaves, and is about to head straight to the cashiers to pay when the desire for a corn dog makes itself known, demanding Jason fill his stomach with the junk. He heads to the freezer aisle, snagging himself a box, when he sees someone familiar out of the corner of his eye.

Dick Grayson. He’s leaning down, finger to his lips, as he stares at the variety of ice creams on display. He hasn’t seen Jason yet.

Jason is frozen for a moment, unable to tear his gaze away from the sight of Dick—not Nightwing, but Dick. It’s been several years since he’s seen him like this, long black hair drooping over his eyes, wearing a loose shirt and sweatpants. It’s almost bizarre. He’s pretty sure the last time they ever spoke was before Jason died, and Jason has changed so much from then—but it almost looks like Dick hasn’t changed at all, like he’s still Jason’s aloof predecessor that he rarely ever saw but was excited to see all the same. Until he learnt that Dick didn’t feel the same way about him.

He slowly turns away, back down the aisle, and quickly makes his way down the next one to the cashiers. He stops himself from asking the cashier to scan his items faster, shoving his money at her once she’s bagged all his items and muttering, “Keep the change.”

She blinks in confusion, starts to say, “Wait—” but Jason’s already grabbing his bags and leaving.

He’s two steps to the doors when he hears a squeak of rubber shoes on linoleum, a familiar voice behind him say, “Excuse me?” 

He breaks out into a run.

He weaves past the cars in the parking lot and heads for the nearest alleyway, sprinting down and losing his bags in the process. He knew, he fucking knew that it was only a matter of time before Tim told everyone where he’s living. There’s no point in trying to lead Dick away from his apartment if he already knows where it is, so Jason heads straight there, intent on getting to his bike and speeding away.

He doesn’t count on Dick having his own bike. He’s cut off at the next street, Dick swinging around onto the footpath to block him, so he backtracks, heading back to another alleyway, and scaling the fire escape onto the rooftop. He hears the roar of Dick’s bike below him, so he jumps from roof to roof until the sound fades. Once it does, he takes a breather, heart pounding at the chase and at nearly being caught.

“Fuck,” he whispers, and his voice shakes with the adrenaline pumping through his veins. “Fuck.”

“Jason.”

Jason whirls around, eyes wide, but his shock falls away to contempt when he realises that it’s not Dick but Tim who has followed him up to the roof. “You,” he says, pulling his fists up into a guard, “you stay the hell away from me.”

“Are you okay?” Tim asks, stepping closer and ignoring Jason’s demands completely.

“I said stay away. You’ve invaded my home and now you’ve lead Dick to me too.”

“I didn’t lead Dick to you. We just happened to be in the area, I promise.”

“Stay away, Jason snarls, snapping his teeth at Tim.

Spreading his hands out in a placating gesture, Tim says, “Do you see me wearing any gear? Did you see Dick wearing anything? You and I both know that if he had a grapple, you wouldn’t have even made it a block.”

“I’d’ve been just fine, thank you.”

Tim looks at him doubtfully. “If you say so,” he says, and Jason immediately feels the urge to punch him in the face.

“Why won’t you leave me alone?”

“I didn’t come out here to find you, I swear. This was just a coincidence.”

“Prove it.”

“We came out to buy groceries, not track you down. We’re working on a case for Bruce, and we were just scoping the neighbourhood out when Dick said something about seeing you in the grocery store before he took off on his bike.” Tim pauses, squinting his eyes a little in confusion. “Why are you here? This is a strange place to shop for groceries, it’s so far away from your home.”

Jason doesn’t answer him.

He sees it when the realisation comes to Tim anyway. “You’ve moved,” he concludes.

“Funny,” Jason utters snidely. “Thought you kept a twenty-four hour watch on my apartment.”

“I promise you, I haven’t been near since that night—”

“And I trust you won’t try to follow me again.”

“I won’t,” Tim insists. “I’ll lead Dick away from you too.”

Either Tim is a very good liar or he’s telling the truth. His eyes are wide and pleading, and Jason sees no indication of deceit.

“Even if you lead him to me,” Jason threatens, “I’ll kill you both. Your little toy sticks can’t stop my guns.”

“You don’t want to kill us.”

“Keep telling yourself that.” He shakes his head, scoffing. “I should’ve killed Bruce and Dick sooner but I’m a sentimental fool who gets attached too easily, I guess. Sooner or later they’ll find out where I live, be it your doing or not, and they’ll drag me back to the manor. I’d rather it happen much, much later, so you keep your mouth shut and I won’t find reason to hurt you.” He turns his back on Tim, and is about to jump onto the fire escape when he feels a touch at his back. He shoves the hand away, snarling, “Don’t touch me.”

Tim raises his hands. “Let me help you.”

“Help me what?”

“Avoid them.”

Jason laughs derisively. “And let you follow me home again and break in while I’m asleep? No, thank you.”

“I’m not going to do that, I only want to help,” he insists. “I could show you their patrol routes, I could create false leads for you, just let me.”

“Listen here, kid,” Jason snaps, “I’ve had enough of you pretending like you’re my friend when you’ve just been creeping around and stalking me. And quit fucking telling me what you think I need, I get that enough from alphas everywhere I go. Next time you try and order me around, I promise I will break both of your arms.” He turns away again, intending on those to be his final words, but Tim mutters something behind him.

“You could try.”

Jason stills. “What was that?”

“I said, you could try.”

It takes everything he has not to pounce on the boy and beat him to a pulp. “You’re funny. You have no idea what I could do to you, you have no idea what I’ve done, but yeah, you’re funny. Keep it up. It’ll only be a matter of time before someone wipes that smile off your face permanently.”

He jumps down onto the fire escape, and onto the ground from there. He doesn’t check to see whether Tim is following him—if he sees him anywhere near his apartment, he’ll do good on his promise.

 


 

Chapter Text

The brothel looks like any other club from the outside, heavy blackout curtains covering the windows, a glowing neon sign above the door denoting its name: Santa Maria.

Jason had raised a brow at the name when Roman told it to him, receiving a laugh in reply. “Davis likes to pretend he’s classy. He isn’t really one to go to church and engage in prayer.”

There’s hardly anyone else around in the small lane off the main red light district street; there are a few guys smoking outside one of the other clubs, but other than them, the lane is empty.

Jason takes a deep breath and heads inside. The lights are dim, and the scents of omega and alpha pheromones that immediately fill his nostrils as well as the cloying stink of sex make it feel very claustrophobic. He’s glad he’s taken his suppressants: if he hadn’t he’d probably be so turned on by all the intermingling scents of alpha ruts and omega heats, he might’ve spiralled into a sympathy heat himself.

There are bouncers inside by the door who pat him down, letting him through once they’re convinced Jason isn’t carrying. They don’t know that he’s detached one of the air conditioning units from the outside and snuck his weapons and equipment in.

He heads into the main club room and is greeted by bohemian decor and thick plumes of smoke. There are a dozen armchairs and a few loveseats scattered around, all occupied by some old sleazy alpha, some seated with a young omega on their laps, locking lips or simply embracing. By the far wall, an alpha and omega stand around a pool table, but it seems the alpha is more occupied with getting his mouth on the omega’s neck than with playing the game. They’re all too busy to notice him, or they don’t care.

He sneaks past the reception desk, sensing an opportunity once the girl has turned her back, and creeps into the hallway, heading to his hidden stash at the end. He takes apart the unit, retrieving his weapons and re-arming himself. Once he puts the unit back together, he makes his way to the other end of the hall.

He passes by a few numbered doors—the bedrooms, he knows—and the scents grow stronger. He turns his nose up at the smell—since he’s on suppressants they don’t have any effect on his arousal, rather they overwhelm his senses and make his head turn dizzy and faint. He can hear the sounds of moaning and grunting through the walls, the slaps of flesh on flesh; the noise spurs Jason on, making him move quicker through the hall, wanting to be rid of it already.

He turns the corner and freezes. There’s an omega looking back at him in the middle of the hall, eyes wide and frozen in shock. If Jason looks closer, he can see marks around her neck and an excess of concealer under her eyes. He sees her studying him in turn, eyes lingering on the holsters at his thighs. Her eyes turn hard suddenly, and they flick up to meet his.

“You’re here for him?” she whispers, jerking her head toward the door behind her. It’s the only door with panels of frosted glass on it, the only one unnumbered. It must be Davis’.

Jason nods once.

“You’re here to kill him?”

Jason purses his lips. When the omega shifts, shifting her weight from one leg to the other, Jason notices her wince, though she tries her best to hide it, schooling her expression into something placid and blank.

“If I have to,” he answers.

She nods, shutting her eyes and sinking against the wall. She looks exhausted.

“I’ll make sure he won’t hurt you again,” Jason says, and her eyes slowly blink open again.

“Do not make promises you cannot keep.” And with that, she pushes off the wall and makes her way past Jason, back down to the other end of the hall. Her walk is slow, her steps deliberately measured. Jason had an idea of how Davis was treating his employees, but it’s nothing compared to seeing the results of his abuse firsthand.

He steps forward in front of Davis’ door. He pushes in without announcing himself, hoping to catch Davis by surprise.

Davis does indeed jump, but Jason stalks forward and pushes him back down in his chair with his boot, pulling his gun out and pointing it at his chest.

“Move, make any attempt to call for help, and I pull the trigger,” Jason tells him.

Davis, face twisted up in shock and anger, growls at Jason until he shoves him hard with his foot. Davis shuts up immediately, but he doesn’t lose the snarl on his face. Jason pulls back, putting his foot back on the ground, and takes a good look at him. He’s shorter than Jason expected, on the small side for an alpha. He obviously has some kind of superiority complex that makes him seek out those he sees as lower than himself to abuse.

Jason is very tempted to just shoot him and be done with it, but he also wants to see him suffer. He holsters his gun, heading back to the door to close and lock it, then slips his knife out, watching Davis’ eyes trail it as he twirls it around.

“You know who sent me?” he asks, walking back to Davis in the chair and waving the knife in front of his face.

“No? But I wanna know who the fuck let you in,” Davis says, and Jason snorts.

“Your security isn’t as tight as you think it is, Davis. You’re a sorry excuse of a businessman, and from what I’ve seen, you have no fucking clue how how to run an establishment. You also have no fucking clue how to treat your boss or your workers.”

“My boss?” Davis snaps, then his face seems to clear slightly as the realisation comes to him. “Roman? Roman sent you?”

Jason claps. “So he can think after all. Yes, Roman sent me. If you’d been doing your job properly, I wouldn’t be here.”

“Doin’ my job properly? I’ve been runnin’ this fuckin’ club for six months, and if he thinks I haven’t been doin’ my job, he better have another look at the numbers, ‘cause I think your boss has been wearing that stupid mask of his for too long, it’s cuttin’ off the bloodflow to his brain.” He reaches out and heavily taps the papers on his desk. “Read. The. Numbers. Money’s flowin’ in, I ain’t lost a single customer since I started runnin’ this place.”

Jason snorts, shoving Davis’ hand away from the table. “You’re actin’ so tough while he’s not around, but I wonder if you’d still be actin’ the same if he was here.”

“Well, why isn’t he here? Why’d he send one of his lackeys?” Davis spits, his entire head going red in anger. “If he wanted to speak to me, he could’ve visited himself, or called me up to his tower.”

“He’s decided you ain’t worth his time. He told me I could do whatever I want with you.”

“And who exactly are you? I ain’t never been greeted by one of Roman’s men like this. Slammin’ my door open and kickin’ your fuckin’ boot in my face like you have any right to treat me like that.”

“You new to Gotham, Davis? Sounds like it.” Jason tips his head to one side and grins. “I’m the Red Hood. And I wanna know why you think it’s alright to abuse your workers.”

Davis snorts. “Red Hood. Black Mask. You’re all a bunch of fuckin’ psychopaths playin’ dress up, that’s what you are.”

Jason smiles with his teeth. “Then what do you call someone like you? Hitting the girls who work for you, beating them, raping them. For what? What do you get out of it?”

“Those little whores? It’s what they’re for. Holes to fuck. And they gotta learn their place if they wanna continue workin’ for me, so if I have to beat ‘em to make ‘em learn, that’s what I’ll do.”

Jason clenches his jaw, resisting the urge to run his knife along Davis’ neck. Instead he flicks his wrist, giving him a little nick along his cheek. Davis cries out, touching his fingers to the split flesh, his eyes going wide at the blood he sees. “What the hell do you think you’re doing?”

“I don’t like your answer, Davis,” Jason growls, pitching his voice low like an alpha would. Davis shrinks back in his seat. “Tell me again. Why do you think it’s alright to abuse your workers?”

“They’re sluts!” Davis snarls, saliva spraying out of his mouth. “They’re born to be bred, they’re born to take knots!”

Jason reels back and punches him square in the face. He falls to the ground with a groan, and Jason takes a moment to soak in the sight before he leans down and picks him up by the lapels. “Say it again,” he says.

Davis’ nose is broken, blood gushing down his face into his mouth, and he grins through bloody teeth. “Those fucking sluts aren’t people. They’re my property. I’ll treat ‘em how I wanna treat ‘em.”

Jason stares into those beady black eyes and feels no remorse for what he’s about to do. He twists his fingers in Davis’ tie, smiling pleasantly at him as he undoes the knot around his neck. Davis mutters at him, in equal parts confusion and anger before Jason slips his tie off and drops him back onto the ground.

“Roman sent me here because you’ve been catching the attention of the cops.” As he speaks, he forcefully takes Davis’ wrists and binds them with the tie. “Seems like someone—your workers or your customers, I don’t know which—don’t like the way you’ve been treating ‘em. Roman sent me here to give you a warning, to make you stop before the cops come down on your ass and make more trouble for him.”

He searches around the office for a gag, settling on the length of bondage rope by the couch.

“This been washed?” he asks, holding it up as he ties a bit gag. Davis glares back at him. “Pity. Since it’s going in your mouth.”

“Hey, now, wait a minute—”

Jason forces it into his open mouth, holding his tongue down and winding it around his head to tie it. Davis’ protests turn to muffled grunts of alarm and he squirms a little before Jason kicks him in the side to get him to stop.

“Now, Roman didn’t want me to kill you. He said to avoid it if possible. But, to be quite honest, I’m very tempted to. One nick here,” he taps the handle of his blade against Davis’ throat, “and you’ll be dead in minutes. Roman might ask why, and I could tell him you weren’t being cooperative, and he’ll leave it be. You’ll be nothing but a name on a gravestone.”

Davis’ breathing turns ragged, but when he glares up at Jason, there’s not a single ounce of regret in his expression. He doesn’t care that he’s a rapist, he doesn’t care about his victims. Even if Jason scares him, there’s no guarantee he won’t go back to abusing his workers. Jason sees only one solution.

“I won’t kill you straight away though. It’ll be too easy. Too quick for someone like you. I wanna teach you a lesson, Davis,” Jason says, lowering his voice as he leans in close. “One you won’t ever forget. And if you learn it well, I might let you live at the end. You ready?”

Davis kicks out at him, but Jason stamps down on one of his legs and he freezes up in pain, a low moan escaping the gag.

“This behaviour isn’t getting you anywhere good, Davis,” Jason says. “It’s almost like you’re asking to die. Now,” he leans down and pulls Davis’ pants down, along with his underwear, ignoring his struggling. “If you stay still, I won’t make any mistakes, and I might be able to cut it off in one go instead of hacking away at it. Sound good?”

Davis starts yelling through the gag. It’s only a matter of time before someone hears and comes to investigate, Jason has to be quick. He lowers his knife to the skin, but before he can swipe it off, a loud bang sounds from behind. Jason turns just in time to see Nightwing bursting through the splintered wood and glass of the door.

He’s breathing hard, chest rising and falling, and when he looks up and sees Jason he goes very still. Jason imagines his eyes going wide behind the domino mask.

It’s over. Dick isn’t going to let Jason do what he wants to Davis—what Dick will do is send Davis to Blackgate just to be let out again in the future, with little to no chance of ever paying for his crimes. Jason can’t let that happen.

He adjusts his grip on the knife, giving two quick stabs through Davis’ flesh: one in the neck, one between his ribs, to what he hopes is the liver. Blood sprays out wildly, coating Jason’s glove and sleeve—the thick smell of copper invades his nostrils. There’s no saving Davis, not now.

When he turns back, Dick is staring at him with a look of fear and shock, his lips parted, his fingers trembling slightly at his sides. This rare show of apprehension doesn’t last long though—he comes forward, Jason stepping back, and says lowly, “I’m taking you in, Jason.”

Jason brings his bloodied knife up as he shifts into a defensive stance. “I’m not letting you take me anywhere.”

Dick shakes his head stiffly. “I don’t want to hurt you, Jason, you’re pack—”

“I’m not your pack,” Jason snarls over him, and Dick’s mouth snaps shut, his jaw clenching. “We’re not family. Now go run back to Batman and tell him to leave me alone.”

“You just killed someone. You stabbed him in cold blood right in front of me, and you have no remorse for it. You know I can’t let you go.”

“He was a rapist,” Jason spits, his hands shaking with frustration because why can’t Dick understand? “He was hurting omegas.”

“I know,” Dick answers calmly. “I know how passionately you feel about this. But killing isn’t the answer.”

“Then what would you have done?”

“Not this.”

“I’m warning you, Dick. Let me through.”

“I can’t.”

Jason doesn’t hesitate. He comes straight at Dick with the knife, thrusting it towards his chest, but Dick dodges to the side, pushing Jason’s arm away. He retaliates with a quick jab to Jason’s side, as well as a sweep of the legs that has Jason falling onto his back. Before he can engage Jason in a grapple however, Jason takes hold of his arms, placing his feet on Dick’s abdomen and throwing him over, kicking at Dick so he’s launched into the air. Jason hears him land on the desk behind him, smashing it into pieces.

Dick groans, his body splayed out on top of the broken pieces of the desk, but before he can recover, Jason takes the moment of reprieve to run. He dives through the window, shielding his face from the glass with his arm, then runs down the empty lane way to the main street where he’s left his bike. He doesn’t get more than a few steps, however, when he’s tackled to the ground, landing hard on his front.

“Get off!” he growls, but Dick locks his legs around Jason’s waist, holding his arms down, and he is unable to twist onto his side with Dick’s weight trapping him to the ground.

“Enough, Jason,” Dick snaps back at him, and Jason flinches at how close he sounds, his breath hot on his skin, his teeth inches away from Jason’s neck—

No. No, no, no.

“Dick, get off,” he pleads, and he hates how desperate he sounds, but Dick isn’t listening. Something isn’t right, because Dick would never—he wouldn’t—

“You were always so much more trouble than you were worth,” Dick snarls into his ear. He feels the threat of teeth on his skin, feels the beginnings of a bite, of canines pressing down on his nape, and he feels his body sag, his muscles go lax in preparation—

There’s a rush of wind and Jason hears Dick grunt, turning to see him fall away to the side, falling onto the ground with a hard thump, followed by a smaller body that rolls gracefully onto their feet. They’re a flash of black, red, and yellow until they’re upright, pulling themselves to their full height. The familiar smile Jason usually sees Tim wearing is nowhere to be seen, in its place is a mouth set in a grim line, an expression nearing one of distaste. Red Robin stands over Dick, extending his bo staff at his side.

Dick pushes himself onto his knees, groaning all the while in pain. “What are you doing?” he grunts out as he looks up at Tim.

“What are you doing?” Tim fires back at him, and he follows Dick’s gaze when he aims a glare in Jason’s direction.

“He killed Davis,” Dick says. “We have to bring him in. Better us than B, you know what happened last time, he’ll end up letting him go.” His stare while he talks doesn’t leave Jason’s face, and Jason is disquieted, unused to being spoken about so callously by someone he used to call his family.

“You’re not thinking clearly,” Tim tells him. He tilts his head, seemingly studying Dick. “How long have you been off your suppressants?”

“A week,” Dick answers, getting to his feet.

“And how long were you on them before that?”

Dick is silent for a good moment. “Two years.”

Two years. Doctors recommend taking a week’s break from suppressants every six months—going for two years straight is just asking for your hormones to go out of control when you finally come off them. Jason is surprised Dick’s been able to hold himself back for so long. Tim is on the same wavelength.

“You need to stay away from Jason,” Tim states calmly. “You were about to tear into him.”

“I’m his alpha,” Dick snaps.

Jason’s heart skips a beat at that—out of fear or—worse yet, some misguided feeling of longing, of belonging to a pack he left long ago.

“No, you’re not,” Tim says, shaking his head, saying the words Jason wants to say but can’t. “You haven’t been his pack for a long time.”

“All those years of being pack can’t be discounted. Nothing can override a pack bond.”

“Not even death?”

Dick stills. “Not even death,” he says, and he looks down at Jason, his face unreadable. “The point is he’s here now. We can take him and bring him back—”

“Back home? Why? Why does he need to be brought there? You want to scent him? Force a pack mark onto him? Your judgment is clouded, you’re not thinking right. You need to calm down and let me handle this.”

Dick snarls. “I’m the eldest—”

Tim scoffs dismissively. “As if that matters. Now back away while I get him somewhere safe.”

“Red,” Dick warns.

“Don’t pretend you were ever close to him. Don’t pretend that you’re only concerned for his wellbeing. I can smell you, and you’re only acting like this because you were too stubborn to use your suppressants properly. You wanted to protect people from your aggression? Well, look at you now.”

“You make the wrong choice here and you know what happens.”

“Is it the wrong choice to protect someone who’s in danger of being attacked by an out-of-control alpha?”

“Red—don’t do this,” Dick says, even as he reaches for his escrima sticks behind his back. “Don’t make me fight you.”

Tim tilts his head. “Who said anything about fighting you?”

It’s a quick movement of his hand, Jason barely catches it, but Tim must have thrown down a smoke grenade, because in the next second the area is covered in grey smoke and Jason can barely see two feet in front of him. His chest fills with panic, stumbling around blind, he knows he was a few feet away from Dick—

Hands come around his arms and he twists around wildly, trying to break their grip—

But it’s only Tim. He presses a finger to his lips, shushing him, then pulls Jason to his feet. Jason lets himself be tugged along as Tim navigates the smoke-filled street. Behind them, Dick is shouting in frustration, calling for Tim to listen and for Jason to come back.

“Ignore him,” Tim says when Jason stops for a second, almost feeling compelled to listen to Dick’s desperate cries.

They leave the range of the smoke bomb, and Jason sees what Tim has lead them to. It’s Jason’s bike, still standing untouched on the sidewalk where he left it.

“Keys,” Tim says in his ear, and Jason hands them to him immediately. Part of him is unsure why he’s trusting Tim now with his bike, or better yet, with his life, but another part is trying to convince him that it’s safer to go with him than have to risk fighting Dick.

He’s guided onto the seat, Tim sitting himself in front of him to drive, and soon they’re speeding off down the street, away from the red light district, back to Jason’s neighbourhood. Tim asks Jason to show him where he lives, and any other time, Jason would be indignant that Tim would even think that he has any right to that information, but at the moment, Jason feels nothing other than a strong urge to acquiesce and sit quietly as Tim takes the lead.

Tim parks the bike on the footpath, and when he dismounts, he gently pulls Jason along with him, off the bike and onto his feet on the ground. Jason is ushered up the stairs back to his apartment, and he gives Tim the keys when he asks to open Jason’s door.

Jason waits patiently as Tim locks the door and activates the security system. When he’s done, he gently nudges Jason into the bathroom. It’s only then that Jason comes back to himself somewhat.

“What are you doing—?” he starts.

“Sit,” Tim orders, gesturing to the counter, peeling his mask off and setting it aside, and Jason goes, pulling himself up onto the counter obediently. “Where are you hurt?” He starts pulling up Jason’s shirt.

Jason finally comes to his senses, and he jerks and pushes Tim’s hands away. “What are you doing?” he repeats.

“You’re bleeding,” Tim says, gesturing down at his shirt. Jason looks down and sees a large patch of blood seeping through his clothes. It probably happened when he jumped through the window, a piece of broken glass must have caught him in the abdomen.

“Well, shit,” he whispers.

Tim huffs a quiet laugh as he bends down to rifle through the cupboard. Coming back up with Jason’s emergency first aid kit in hand, he pulls out the sewing kit and pushes Jason back against the mirror.

“Let me see,” he says. Jason pulls his shirt off and Tim helps him undo his armour. He leans back and watches Tim inspect his wound, his icy blue eyes focused like lasers. “It doesn’t look too deep,” he observes, “just a scratch. Might need a few stitches though. You must’ve been snagged under the armour.” He straightens up, and those eyes switch their attention to Jason’s face. “I can stitch it and clean it up for you if you want.”

Jason takes a while to gauge the meaning of the words, because he’s just so focused on the way they’re said—soft, gentle, like he’s lulling Jason to a pleasant sleep. He blinks a few times to try and clear away the cloud in his head, eventually managing a nod.

Tim’s fingers are light on his skin, fingertips dancing, sending tingles down his spine, cool and soothing where Jason burns hot, and even through the sting of needles and disinfectant, Jason feels more comforted than disturbed.

“What’s wrong with me?” Jason asks so quietly, he isn’t sure if Tim can even hear.

Tim makes an inquisitive noise. For a second, he continues on without answering and Jason is convinced he didn’t hear. But then he says, “There’s nothing wrong with you,” as he tapes up the scratch with gauze.

“I don’t trust you,” is all Jason can say to try to explain the mess that’s going on in his head.

“I know you don’t,” Tim answers evenly.

“So why am I not fighting you?”

Tim doesn’t answer for a while. It was a stupid question anyway, Jason doesn’t know the answer himself, so why he expects Tim to, he doesn’t know. Tim moves his attention to Jason’s face, cleaning up the scratches and blood, dabbing cream on the bruises. Jason looks away from his eyes.

“Dick’s pheromones were incredibly strong,” Tim answers anyway. “They must’ve affected you, made you more submissive. He also almost…” His eyes flick up to Jason’s, possibly gauging his reaction before he continues. “He almost bit you. Your body must be under incredible stress, preparing for the mark only for it to not happen. Anyway, I doubt it’ll last long, you’ll be back to normal soon. Then you can kick me out.”

“He’s going to find me,” Jason muses quietly. “He’ll find where I live. I have to move again.”

Tim licks his lips while he thinks. “I have a safe house. You can stay there until you find someplace to live.”

Jason looks at him. “I thought I was kicking you out as soon as I’m back to normal.”

“That’s up to you,” Tim says, shrugging. “But I want you to know, before you do, that I’m on your side. You don’t have to fight this fight alone.”

It must be the pheromones, it must be, but Jason thinks that doesn’t sound too bad. Having someone else on his side, having a partner. Having… someone.

He doesn’t really know why he says it, doesn’t know why he wants to give up one of his most vulnerable thoughts at a time like this to someone he doesn’t even know, but he whispers, “I’ve been alone for a long time,” and it’s as close to agreeing with Tim as he can get without actually taking him up on his offer.

Tim leans back, apparently done with tending to Jason’s injuries. “Let’s get you into bed. You should sleep.” He gets one arm under Jason’s, supporting him as he slides off the counter and onto his feet.

“I can walk,” Jason says, pushing him away. “It’s not like he actually bit me.”

Tim snorts. “Well, I’m glad you’re coming back to yourself.”

He stands off to the side, giving Jason room to leave the bathroom, and when Jason looks back, he hasn’t followed him into his bedroom. Heaving a heavy sigh, Jason shuts the door, locking it behind him.

 


 

The morning comes with it a clear head and a kitchen full of food. Namely, what appears to be an entire table’s worth of breakfast items like waffles, pancakes, eggs, and sausages in different takeaway containers. He is reminded for a second of Roman’s surprise breakfast before he pushes the memory aside, not wanting to think of him so early in the day, nor have every breakfast become associated with that one surreal morning.

Sitting in one of the chairs facing away from Jason’s bedroom, Tim is tapping away at his laptop, some sort of report on the screen. He’s pushed all the food away to make space for his laptop on the table, but he has a cup by his side that he occasionally brings to his mouth to take sips out of.

“What the hell is this?” he asks loudly, startling Tim who jumps and almost knocks his cup off the table, catching and righting it at the last second. He turns and, seeing Jason standing behind him scowling, smiles, issuing a bright greeting.

“Good morning!”

Jason ignores the greeting, coming around to the table and picking up one of the styrofoam containers, eyeing the nondescript packaging. “What is this?” he says again.

“Food,” Tim answers, coupled with a one-armed shrug. “I thought you might have been hungry since you didn’t eat last night.”

“Where the hell is all of this from?”

“A food delivery service. I don’t cook, so I thought ordering food for you would be better than having nothing at all prepared for when you woke up. Come eat. You must be starving after last night.”

Jason blinks. Last night. Of course. How could he forget?

A memory comes back to him, of hot breath on the skin of his nape, Dick’s voice growling possessively, I’m his alpha

He clamps down on the thought, locking it up and shoving it away lest he retreat into himself again. His heart rate picks up a little, so he spends a moment or two taking deep breaths to calm himself again.

“So what is this?” he says when he’s ready, slowly walking around the table until he’s opposite Tim, facing him directly. “Is this part of your plan to get me back to the manor? Get my guard down and corner me in my own home? Was everything last night just a big act?”

Tim blinks once and levels a look at him over his laptop. “If I wanted to take you to the manor, I would’ve worked with Dick last night to drag you back. I’m not that naive to believe that I could overpower you on my own, especially not on your own field.”

“So you have thought about it? Getting me on my own and taking me by surprise?” He feels himself leaning towards Tim, ready to leap over the table to pounce on him if he must.

Tim gives him a cool look. “I am continuously thinking about how to escape any situation I might find myself in, especially when the person I’m with has one hundred pounds on me and knows how to kill a man with his bare hands.”

Jason leans back on his feet. “So you’re scared of me.”

“Of course. Anyone with half a brain can see the danger you pose. I wouldn’t be here if I thought you would actually hurt me.”

“How are you so sure that I won’t?” Jason questions.

“I’m not.” Tim’s eyes flick up to his, mirth dancing in all the cool blue. “You could probably argue that I deserve whatever you throw at me though.”

“You do,” Jason agrees without hesitation.

Tim huffs, a little smile playing on his lips. “Then I wouldn’t be so angry if you did.”

“You’d be wrong for being angry at all. I’m the only one who gets to be angry.” It’s mostly said facetiously, but Jason knows that they both know he isn’t being entirely insincere.

“Of course,” Tim says easily, the corner of his mouth finally lifting into a crooked smile. Jason feels something roll in his gut.

He looks away, switching his attention to the overabundance of food on his table. “I’m not going to eat all of this.”

“No, I don’t expect you to.”

“So what’s the point? Do I look like a dumpster you can throw mountains of food into?”

Tim’s smile fades. “Of course not. I just thought it might make you happy—”

Jason shakes his head. “Why do you keep doing this? Why do you keep buying me food and coming here to check on me when you know who I am and what I’ve done? I’m a killer. You’re a Bat. You should be taking me in like Dick says.”

Tim keeps his face blank. “Is that what you want? For me to go back on my own morals and bring you back to someone who wanted to hurt you? I may not know you, Jason, but you don’t know me either. I wouldn’t let that happen to someone, no matter what they’ve done, especially if they’re in a vulnerable position.”

Jason grips the back of the chair in front of him to ground himself. Getting angry isn’t going to help him right now. “I don’t need you to look after me, or whatever it is you think you’re doing. I don’t need you coming to my rescue. I’ve lived alone for years. I’m fine by myself.”

“Would you have been fine last night?” Tim shoots back. “With Dick holding you down, about to bite a claim into your neck, would you have been fine if I didn’t step in?”

Jason grits his teeth. “I would’ve found a way to break his hold.”

Tim shakes his head. “No, you wouldn’t have. You were already incredibly affected by him, you could barely move without my directing you, for God’s sake. He would’ve marked you, and you would have willingly followed him back to Bruce, back to your old pack. Which is, according to you, the last thing you would ever want, so I can see why you’re so grateful to me that I got you out of there.”

“Fine,” Jason concedes begrudgingly. “Thank you.”

“You’re welcome,” Tim replies evenly.

“But I don’t need you looking after me anymore,” Jason continues quickly. “I’m moving far away from here, and hopefully it’ll be a couple years yet before I bump into any of your pack again.”

Tim eyes him doubtfully, but thankfully he doesn’t say anything more on the topic. “What about Roman?” he asks.

“What about him?”

“You’re still working for him, and I know it can’t be safe for you. You must be looking for a way out.”

Jason purses his lips. “I’m handling it.”

“You’re handling it?”

“I’m handling it. He sees me as a valuable asset, I’m not expendable like the rest of his men so there’s no need to worry about me, okay?” He leaves the stuff about heirs for another time, he still needs to get his own head around it. “But you know what? If you really wanna do something for me, there’s a woman—Adora Evans—her life is under threat from Black Mask.”

“I’ll have her come under our protection,” Tim answers immediately, “we’ll move her somewhere safe, and she’ll never come into contact with him again.”

“It really is just that easy for you, huh. You can just phone in and get anything you want just like that.”

“Well, there are certain benefits that come with being part of a pack. Having a support network is one of them.” At Jason’s silence, Tim proceeds, his voice soft, “I am offering you my assistance, Jason. And I expect nothing in return. I’m not going to force you to rejoin our pack, I’m not even going to ask you to eat this food,” he gestures to the containers on the table, “all I want is to help you.”

For some reason, Jason thinks he’s telling the truth. Ever since Tim entered his life, he’s been getting Jason out of dangerous situations and buying him food, all while seemingly expecting nothing in return. He hasn’t gone about it in a graceful way, oftentimes ignoring Jason’s demands for him to stop, and even going so far as to stalk Jason and break into his home—but he hasn’t done anything that makes Jason think he is harbouring anything other than pure intentions. Aside from that one moment at Tim’s car—which neither has brought up yet and Jason hopes won’t be brought up anytime soon—nothing unexpected has happened, nothing that might give Jason reason to believe Tim is actually conspiring against him.

Or perhaps he is still off-balance from last night.

“I’ll think about it,” he says, and the way Tim’s eyes light up at that you would almost believe Jason just accepted something as life-changing as a marriage proposal.

“Thank you,” Tim says sincerely, his blue gaze wide and unyielding.

“I said I’d think about it,” Jason says as he quickly gives up on fighting a losing battle, giving into the smell of free food coming from the containers, opening up the closest one and shoving a hash brown into his mouth, “but to be honest, the longer you stay here, the more inclined I am not to take you up on it.”

“Yes, I suppose I have intruded for long enough,” Tim says agreeingly, to Jason’s surprise. He shuts his laptop and shoves it into his bag, then stands. “I know you haven’t yet agreed to working with me, but,” he reaches into his pocket and pulls out an earpiece, laying it on the table, “if you need anything, anything at all, you can reach me on that.”

“Thanks,” Jason says sarcastically. “How do I know it isn’t bugged or fit with a tracker?”

“Destroy it if you want. But I promise you, it only carries a comm link. Direct to my channel and my channel only.”

“Great. My own personal Robin that comes when I call.”

Tim’s mouth settles into a straight line. “Last night…”

“What about it?”

Tim’s eyes flit to him then away. “Nothing. Just be careful out there.”

“Of course,” Jason says, opening up another container and licking his lips at the sight of the sausages inside, “and if I do run into trouble, I’ll be sure to give my favourite sidekick a call.”

There’s no movement from behind him for a moment, and Jason is about to turn and snap at him, but then he finally hears the door open and shut and the quiet footsteps leading away from his apartment.

He looks at the earpiece on the table for a moment. Without really thinking about it, he pockets it, then forgets about it for the rest of the day.

 


 

Chapter Text

The sound of a soft thump outside his bedroom wakes him up.

Jason pushes himself up onto his arms, dread freezing his gut when he scents the air.

It’s Dick. Jason can almost taste the potent alpha musk, filling Jason’s apartment, contaminating it.

Jason swiftly but quietly slips out of bed, going straight to his thigh holsters and putting them on, sliding one of his guns into one and reaching for the other when he remembers that he left it outside on the dining table. Fuck.

He reaches for his jacket instead, slipping his arms into it and stealing himself in front of the door.

Dick hasn’t come in for a reason. Jason isn’t stupid enough to think he’s here to talk. He’s waiting for Jason to come out. He wants Jason to make the first move.

Jason could go out the window, get a few rooftops in between him and Dick before Dick even realises he’s gone. But no. Dick entered Jason’s apartment uninvited, brought himself and his alpha pheromones right into Jason’s space, and is currently waiting to attack Jason at his most vulnerable. No, Jason isn’t just going to run away.

He backs up a few paces, then charges at the door, knocking it down as he smashes all his weight against it, and it crashes to the ground with a loud bang.

Dick is nearly crushed under the weight of the door—Jason can feel the impact when there’s some resistance to it going down—but he flips away at the last second, and Jason feels a little burst of satisfaction when he sees the shocked look on Dick’s face. Before Dick straightens up, Jason grabs the nearest object—a vase on the counter—and smashes it on his head.

Dick shouts in outrage, reaching a hand out to grab Jason before Jason smacks it away, countering it with a kick that sends Dick flying backwards, but of course, he avoids a hard fall by following the momentum and flipping onto his feet.

“This is no way to treat big brother,” he says breathlessly, and Jason growls.

“You’re not my brother.”

Dick smiles, then he’s rushing towards Jason, coming at him with a barrage of fists. Jason blocks most of them, sending out a hook of his own which Dick dodges under, wrapping his arms around Jason’s middle and lifting him up briefly off the ground before smacking him down onto the floor in a tackle.

Jason, winded, has a brief moment of panic that Dick might go for his neck again. But Dick seems more in control tonight, more than last night at least, and instead of baring his teeth, he reaches back for his escrima sticks.

Jason swings hard at his face, and Dick takes it with an “Oof!” as his head jerks to the left. Jason pushes him off, dancing out of reach, ending up in the kitchen behind the table.

“Come now, Jason,” Dick says, his words barely masking the growls rumbling from deep in his chest, “we don’t have to fight.”

“You intrude in my home while I’m sleeping, stinking of violence, and tell me we don’t have to fight?” Jason laughs darkly. “Your knothead alpha brain really is getting the better of you.”

“You think so?” Dick says, stalking around the table. Jason matches him step for step. “Little Wing, I’ve known you since you were this tall.” He gestures with his hand to his chest. “I know how you work, how you fight. You think you can take me, you’re kidding yourself.”

Jason shakes his head. “It’s been years. A lot’s changed. You don’t know me anymore.”

“Aw, come on, Jason. You learnt from me. Every single trick, every flip, you did in my uniform.”

Jason scoffs. “Are you joking? Do you not remember? You were hardly ever there, Dick. Even before I arrived, you were always out, always away doing what—throwing hissy fits because Bruce wouldn’t acknowledge you as an alpha?”

“Bruce couldn’t handle the fact that I wanted to go out on my own, fight my own battles, and yeah, be my own alpha. He wanted someone he could control, someone who’d listen, and just his luck, he managed to get his hands on the world’s most stubborn omega.” He spits the last two words out, his lips twisted up into a snarl. Then he seems to lose most of his venom, as he suddenly composes himself, his expression changing into one of remorse. “Yeah, I wasn’t there for you when you needed it the most, and I regret that,” he says softly. “I regret that we couldn’t have been… more. More than just two boys who shared the same father. Brothers. Friends. But it’s too late for that. You’re a criminal, a killer, Jason. There’s no going back now.”

Jason stops in the middle of the kitchen, and Dick mirrors him on the other side. “If you weren’t still trying to prove yourself to Bruce after all these years, you’d see things from my point of view. You’d understand that Bruce isn’t always right, that sometimes you need to think for yourself. But here you are,” Jason says derisively, “coming after me because it’s what Bruce wants.”

Dick smiles scornfully, but Jason knows he’s hit a nerve because he stays silent, not even meeting Jason’s words with a witty reply. They both know it’s true—Jason may have been unruly as a child but he wasn’t an idiot, nor was he blind; anyone could see the way he preened under Bruce’s praise, looked to him for guidance, had his admiration tainted and turned into resentment when Bruce failed to acknowledge him the way he wanted him to.

For most of his life, Jason had only pitied him. Deep down, in a nameless place he never wants to inspect, he would say that he had empathised with him.

But he suspects that Dick has never once dared to look into this part of himself, and so Jason tells him, “You were never trying to be your own alpha, Dick. You just wanted to be Bruce’s.”

Dick’s face twists up into a snarl again, and he lets out a growl from deep in his chest, his eyes lighting with fire.

Jason sees his chance and he takes it. He shoves the table hard, forcing Dick back a few feet. Jason grabs a pot off the drying rack and slams it hard against Dick’s head while he’s occupied with the table. Dick falls to the ground, and before he can recover, Jason is already rushing out of his apartment, running down the hallway and leaping through the window at the end, bursting through the frame in a shower of glass and landing on the street below in a roll.

He doesn’t take a moment to catch his breath, instead bursting into a sprint to the end of the block. As he runs, he feels an odd shape bouncing in his front jacket pocket, and his full attention immediately turns to it. He reaches in and pulls it out and—

Oh.

Oh.

He’s a fucking idiot.

He slows to a jog as he turns the corner, eventually slowing to a walk when he hits a main street so he doesn’t stand out from the others on their late night walks, then he puts the earpiece in his ear.

He doubts Tim is even listening right now but it’s worth a shot.

“Red Robin,” he says, and immediately finding the name quite a mouthful, decides to shorten it to something more convenient. “Red, you there?”

A moment passes and Jason reaches up to take the earpiece out but stops when Tim’s voice comes crackling over the line. “What do you need?”

Jason doesn’t even really know the guy, isn’t even sure if he can completely trust him yet, but for some reason the sound of his voice is… comforting.

He doesn’t want to look into why that is.

“I’m in trouble,” he says, speaking quietly, keeping his eyes up, scanning the roofs for movement. “Nightwing’s after me.”

There’s a pause, a sharp inhale of breath. “On my way,” is Tim’s response, and the fact that he doesn’t ask where Jason is just confirms Jason’s belief that there is a tracker inside the earpiece. “Don’t let him get to you,” he adds.

“No,” Jason says sarcastically, “I’m just going to walk right into—”

As Jason passes an alleyway, a flash of black and blue appears, jumping between the buildings above, and Jason isn’t hopeful enough to think Dick hasn’t spotted him. Again, he bursts into a run.

He can hear Tim, loud and frantic in his ear, “Hood? You there? What’s going on?” but there’s no time to talk; he fires a grapple up to one of the taller buildings across the street and uses the momentum to swing himself up onto a rooftop.

He can hear the clank of metal on stone as another grapple fires behind him—he doesn’t spare a single second to look though, just pushes himself into a sprint, leaping onto the next building.

He hears the quick thuds of Dick’s footsteps behind him, and knows he’s gaining on him, so he makes a sharp turn, towards a new apartment block being built, hoping to lose him in the scaffolding.

He jumps off the building he’s on, landing in a tumble onto one of the wide platforms, and he runs down until he sees a gap big enough in the wooden frames of the building being built for him to get through, ducking through and running across the floor to get to the scaffolding on the other side. He swings himself up onto a metal beam, climbing as fast as he can to the top.

He can’t keep this up for much longer—Dick is faster than him, more agile, and it’s only a matter of time before he catches up. Eventually, he’s going to have to face Dick and fight. He has the advantage of being taller and bigger than Dick, as well as having guns. If Jason can get a clean shot off, he can get Dick in the thigh and impede or possibly completely stop Dick from chasing him. If worst comes to worst and they come to blows, Jason might be able to best him if he can get him down in a grapple. If Dick, with all his acrobatic skill and prowess, manages to evade him, and is then handed the opportunity to kick his ass—

Well. He’ll deal with it when the time comes.

He makes it to the top floor of the apartment complex. The roof hasn’t been built yet, so only a few unfinished frame walls surround him on all sides. He can hear the clank of boots on metal as Dick scales the metal scaffolding, so he unholsters his gun and aims it in the direction of the noise.

If he shoots Dick now, he could fall to his death. If he waits, the more likely it is Dick will catch him.

A hiss echoes out in the night as a smoke bomb comes flying out onto the floor, and his vision is quickly obscured. Jason stands his ground, but he doesn’t shoot. No, shooting now, blindly into the smoke could mean hitting something vital. He doesn’t hate Dick enough to take that risk.

“Tired of running, Hood?” Dick chuckles from somewhere in the smoke, and the sound is low and dark, so unlike his usual self.

“Yeah,” Jason answers, “got boring. Kinda wanna kick your ass now.”

The blue-black figure steps out of the smoke and greets Jason with a smile that shines in the moonlight.

“You want to fight me, Little Wing?” He drops the smile suddenly and snarls, showing his teeth. Jason drops his chin down automatically, averting his gaze in submission before reason takes over and he tilts his head back up and levels a glare at Dick.

“Red’s right, Nightwing, you’re not in control of yourself. You wouldn’t be acting like this if you were. Bruce should have locked you up, you’re a danger to yourself and any other poor soul that might have slightly pissed you off recently.”

“The only one who should be locked up is you, Hood. I’m here to make sure that happens.”

Jason shakes his head. The smoke is clearing now, and in the corner of his eye, he sees a shadow on the scaffolding. He doesn’t look at it, not wanting to alert Dick to Tim’s presence. “You nearly bit me. As if I would go anywhere near you.”

“You have my promise that I won’t,” Dick says, and as sincere as he’s being, Jason just can’t trust him, not after last night. “As long as you come quietly, I have no reason to hurt you.”

“Sorry, Nightwing, that ain’t happening.”

“A shame,” he says, frowning. Then, turning slightly, he utters something that makes Jason’s heart drop. “Red Robin, don’t tell me you feel the same.”

A shocked silence makes the wind howling through the unfinished building sound that much louder in the moment. Then several things happen at once.

Tim flies out of the shadows, bo staff extended, and Jason fires at Dick. He misses all of his shots as Dick spins around to bat Tim away with his escrima sticks, and when he turns towards Jason, he throws a Batarang and pins Jason in the arm.

He drops his gun as pain explodes up his arm, and is too slow to block Dick when he advances upon him, so Dick is able to kick his gun away. Jason watches, dread in his gut, as it bounces off the corner of a wooden frame and disappears off the edge of the floor.

He manages to bring his arms out to block Dick’s kick, stepping out of his range, trying to put some distance between them. He pulls the Batarang out of his arm, wincing as he does, then throws it to the side. He’s wary of the escrima sticks, knows that there’s an electrical component to them that will shock him if he gets too close.

Behind Dick, Tim is swinging at him with his bo staff, and yet, even when fighting Jason and Tim at the same time, Dick is able to fend his attacks off.

“Working together now?” he says, blocking another swing from Tim as he kicks out at Jason. “Cute. About time you two bonded with each other.”

He’s good, much better than Jason was expecting.  It’s obvious he’s had all sorts of training in the years since they last fought. With Jason weaponless and injured, he’s almost useless, especially when Dick’s escrima sticks are keeping him at bay. At least Tim appears to be holding his own, forcing Dick back as he swings hard at him three times in a row. Jason takes this chance to sweep Dick’s legs out from under him.

Dick twists his body around as he falls and jabs a stick into Jason’s leg, and a strangled yell escapes his lips as fifty thousand volts run through his body, locking his muscles up and paralysing him.

He sees Tim whack Dick across the head with his staff while he’s turned, and Dick rolls away with the hit, bringing the escrima sticks with him. Jason feels immediate relief flow through his body at being released. Tim comes to his side, pulling him up to a sitting position, his features wrought with concern.

“You okay?” he asks. Jason feels him clutching hard to his jacket, his bony fingers digging almost painfully hard into his skin.

“Yeah,” Jason says, “a little out of breath, but yeah, I’m alright.”

Tim looks over as he helps Jason stand. Dick is back up on his feet now, straightening up and rolling his shoulders. “Once he calls Batman it’s over. We won’t be able to take them both on at once.”

But it turns out they don’t need to worry about Dick calling anyone. As they throw themselves back into the fight, they realise that most of his focus is on Jason and Jason alone, on getting ahold of him, and it’s only when Tim gets in between them that Dick takes his eyes off Jason and focuses on Tim instead.

Dick is well and truly embroiled in his alpha hormones, Jason realises. If he were thinking straight, he’d have called for backup the moment he spotted Jason. As it is, he’s fighting them on his own, too riled up to back down, too distracted to even think of the possibility of contacting Bruce for help. Maybe, Jason thinks, maybe they can use this to their advantage.

“Snap out of it, Nightwing,” Tim hisses after he dodges what would have been a particularly nasty swipe at his head.

“Snap out of what?” Dick says, taking a moment’s reprieve to catch his breath. “It’s clear to me that you’re compromised, Red. You say my hormones have got the better of me, but what about you?”

Before Jason can even begin to wonder what he means, Tim lets out a snarl and brings his bo staff up over his head and down hard—Dick, instead of moving out of the way, brings his escrima sticks up and blocks the hit.

They stand, weapons crossed, snarling at each other, and Jason knows when it comes down to a struggle of pure strength, Tim could never overpower Dick. He sees it now—Tim’s arm’s are shaking, veins in his neck bulging, whereas Dick is leaning forwards, barely straining, ready to completely throw Tim off and attack.

Jason dives forward before it can happen. He throws his entire body at Dick, and Dick grunts beneath him as they fall to the ground. Before he can get a hit in, Dick shoves him away, and Jason sees him wind his arm back before he is hit across the face with an escrima stick.

He falls backwards, pain exploding across his cheek. Off to the side, Jason hears something that makes him pause, something that gives him the urge to make himself smaller, less threatening, and expose his throat—an urge he fights against and pushes back down beneath his anger.

It’s a growl. A sound Jason doesn’t expect to come from Tim’s throat—incredibly low and deep, deeper than Tim should be able to go, promising of pain if Dick doesn’t back down and—

Jason blinks. It sounds like…

Dick answers back with a growl of his own, leaping back to his feet, and then they’re going at each other again, and this time there’s something more brutal about it—teeth bared, sticks flying, kicks forcing out pained grunts as they connect, and it’s when his own body starts shaking, an underlying need to submit to the display of dominance taking place before him that Jason realises.

Alpha. Tim is an alpha.

He watches as Tim goes all in, strategy be damned, swinging hard and fast with his bo staff which pings off of Dick’s escrima sticks as he follows up with his own attacks, stepping wide and confidently into Tim’s space until Tim bats him back again.

They’re not stopping, Jason doesn’t think they will stop until one of them submits to the other. And knowing alphas, it will take a lot for one to submit.

Now’s probably the best time to go, to leave the two alphas fighting and make his own way to safety. He doesn’t owe Tim anything—he doesn’t owe someone who’s lied to him multiple times anything. Tim may have promised him refuge, but he also withheld the fact that he is an alpha, so Jason feels justified in his belief that whatever happens now with Dick, he deserves. He should leave right now.

And yet.

He looks back at the fight, and Dick definitely has the upper hand now, posture straight and poised to strike where Tim’s is slouched, favouring his right arm, left hovering around his waist. He’s being backed into a corner, and on either side, there are large gaps in the walls he could easily fall through. He’s going to die if Jason doesn’t intervene.

An idea comes to his head in the form of something instinctual. He retrieves the worry and fear from witnessing the fight that he buried deep down, and lets it crawl up his throat and out his lips in the form of a whine.

It’s a form of submission, nothing too extreme, but it gets the desired effect.

Tim pauses, but Dick jerks like he’s been tased, turning to look back at Jason for a second. It’s a second of distraction that Tim uses to his full advantage. He winds his fist back and punches Dick across the face, and Jason sees the shock on his face when his head snaps to the side with the force of the hit. Tim snaps his staff at the back of Dick’s legs, Dick grunting in pain as he falls to his knees, then kicks at Dick’s back, Dick falling face first to the ground. Twirling his staff with a little triumphant flair, he places his staff at the centre of Dick’s back, keeping him down as he retrieves a set of cuffs from his belt, then snapping them over Dick’s wrists.

“This won’t keep him restrained for long, but it’ll at least give us time to get away,” he says. Then, leaning down, he adds, quieter, “I’m sorry, Nightwing. But this is the right thing to do. I hope you’ll forgive me.”

Dick snarls in response, speech seeming to elude him at the moment.

Tim steps over him and comes to Jason’s side.

“Let’s go,” he says, and they grapple to the rooftop of the closest building together.

Jason watches Tim, eyeing the tense line of his back and the stiffness of his movements. He’s still favouring his right arm though, and Jason has a suspicion that his left might be broken.

As if hearing his thoughts, Tim says, “We’ll go somewhere safe. Then we’ll clean and dress your wounds. Take a chance to recuperate.” The words are strained, like he’s holding something back.

“And yours?” Jason asks. “That arm doesn’t look good.”

“It’s not broken, just bruised,” Tim answers. “Sprained at best. If it gets worse in the next few days I’ll find someone to look at it. The doctor I would usually go to is unfortunately well known to B.”

Jason nods. Then, “Were you going to tell me?”

“About what?” Tim asks, not looking at him as they sprint to the next building.

“About you being an alpha.”

Tim purses his lips. His jaw clenches. “I thought you knew already. Just like I thought you knew I was Red Robin. Let’s go down here,” he says, jumping down onto the gambrel roof of a shopping arcade. They cross over the peak and slide down the other side, Tim firing another grapple at the ledge of a high-rise and Jason following suit.

“You make a lot of assumptions, I’ve noticed,” Jason mutters after they’ve landed again.

“Do you really not keep tabs on your successors?” Jason can see the arch of his eyebrow out of the corner of his eye.

“No, actually. I avoid anything to do with them.”

“Makes sense,” Tim answers and Jason huffs. “No, really, if I were in your shoes I’d probably do the same. Why surround yourself with reminders of a past life? One that you’ve already worked so hard to leave behind?”

Jason grits his teeth in preparation for Tim to say more, but he doesn’t, and Jason releases the breath he was holding.

He doesn’t grace Tim with a response, rather he turns his thoughts to Tim and Dick’s fight, and his revelation that Tim is neither a beta nor an omega on suppressants like Jason had initially thought he was. It all makes sense now, the way Tim was able to overpower those alphas twice his size, the fact that he always talks about needing to prove himself, the preoccupation he has with Jason, an omega, former pack. They were warning signs, and Jason ignored them all.

They continue traversing the city for a few minutes, and once they hit the central business district, Jason starts to wonder where they’re going.

“This doesn’t change anything, does it?” Tim speaks up again after several minutes of silence. They’ve slowed to a walk so Jason assumes that they’re nearing their destination.

“What does?”

“My being an alpha.”

“No,” Jason lies.

“Good. I don’t want it to be a problem. I do my best not to let it interfere in my life, and I like to think I keep a fairly neutral presentation.” Like a beta. The words go unsaid.

“I had you pinned for an omega,” Jason admits.

“Me?” Tim’s tone is incredulous.

“Well, you’re pretty for an alpha.”

“Yes,” Tim answers, and he doesn’t sound annoyed. Jason sees the quirk of his lips. “You’re quite big for an omega.”

Jason’s first instinct is to shush him, but they’re out on the rooftops at three in the morning, he doubts anyone is listening in.

“Anyway, we’ve arrived.”

Jason blinks, looking around. They’re on the rooftop of a high-rise apartment building, a skyscraper on the edge of the central business district, so it’s quite flashy, Jason can tell, looking around at the other nearby apartments.

“You live here?” he asks.

“No,” Tim answers, heading for the rooftop door that leads down to the stairs. “I have a house near the manor, but I’m definitely not going back there, B probably has an ambush set up waiting for me.”

“An ambush?” Jason blinks in surprise. “So you’re really working against him now, huh? You save me from Nightwing and patch me up last night and suddenly you’re number one on his wanted list?”

“No,” Tim says, smiling as he holds the door open for Jason, “that’s you. I might be number two though.”

“So what,” Jason says, beginning his descent down the stairs, “you gonna drop me off here and skulk back to one of your safehouses?”

He hears the door shut and soft footsteps following after him. “Um, not exactly. Here,” Tim says, stopping Jason when they get to the first landing.

“Oh,” Jason says, feeling a sneer grow on his face as he looks at the number, then at Tim. “Penthouse apartment, Red? For me?”

“Hush,” Tim says, a grimace on his face. “I shouldn’t even be dressed like this here. Someone might see.”

“So be quick about it.”

Tim opens the door leading to the hallway, peeking his head out and looking in both directions before he dashes out, Jason following close behind. He reaches his apartment, 7204 in gold on the door, quickly thumbing his code into the keypad and rushing in when the light turns green and unlocks the door.

Once Jason is inside with him, he turns on the lights and activates the lock and security mechanisms behind him. While he’s doing that, Jason looks around the apartment, feeling completely out of place when he sees the widescreen TV, the huge leather sofas, the glossy cupboards, and the new and modern kitchen appliances. The whole place looks so clean and untouched, and Jason almost doesn’t want to spoil it by moving around too much.

He is, however, stuck on the huge windows that span the entirety of one of the walls, going from floor to ceiling and letting Jason see the balcony and the lights of the city behind the glass. There are blackout curtains that Tim begins pulling down, but Jason can’t see what’s preventing an intruder from smashing through the glass and entering through the windows.

“Is this place secure?” Jason asks.

“Yes, it has similar tech to the security used for the manor. Perhaps not as secure as it should be, but no one is supposed to know about this place.”

“Not even B?”

“Not even B,” Tim confirms. “Which is… something I need to speak to you about.”

Jason tenses. “What?”

“The reason we can’t use any other of my safehouses is because B bought them all, he knows where all of them are and he knows how to get through the security for all them. I acquired this place on my own, under a fake identity. He has no idea it exists.”

“So what’s the problem? That sounds perfect.”

“The problem is,” Tim says, licking his lips nervously, “is that there’s nowhere else for me to go. B has frozen my funds, and though I have separate accounts, I don’t have enough to buy or rent a new place and the necessary security upgrades for it.”

“So we’re sharing.”

“Yes. We are going to be living with each other here.”

Jason nods slowly, processing this information. “Well, better than having nowhere to go, right? As long as we don’t have to share a—”

“There’s only one bed,” Tim says quickly. “But I can sleep on the sofa.”

Jason is about to insist that he sleep on the sofa, but he takes another look at the living space and decides that no matter how he might arrange it, he’ll never fit.

As if sensing his trepidation, Tim says softly, “This doesn’t have to be long-term. If you have enough funds, we could pool together to find another place.”

“I don’t.” Jason sighs as he walks over to the sofa and sits down. “I kept most of it in cash, kept it stored at my apartment.”

Tim raises his brows. “Why would you do that?”

“I don’t like keeping accounts and I never thought that something like this would happen.” He shuts his eyes and sighs again, deeply, sinking into the sofa. “I’m a fucking idiot.”

“Well, I have enough to sustain both of us for now. I can’t exactly go back to work though—”

“Work?”

“Wayne Enterprises. I work in HR for the Wayne Foundation.”

Jason blinks. “Of course you do.”

Tim sits himself on the two-seater across from him. “Did you really not know?”

“I told you. I don’t keep tabs on any Bats. I want nothing to do with you.”

Tim’s lips quirk into a crooked smile. “Don’t watch the news?”

Jason glares at him. “No, Kim, I don’t. I focus on what I see around me, on the streets, I don’t care for much else.”

Tim raises a brow. “Kim?”

“Kardashian.”

“Funny. I thought you lived under a rock.”

Jason rolls his eyes and stands, heading to the bathroom to search for medical supplies. Tim follows him in, plucking the box out of Jason’s hands when he pulls it out of the cupboard under the sink. Jason blinks at him for a second, then gets onto the counter when he accepts that Tim is going to do his checkup.

“Anyway, I consider myself more of a Kendall,” he says, pulling out the needed supplies as Jason takes off his jacket, leaving him in the shirt he went to sleep in. “That doesn’t look too deep.”

Jason looks down at his forearm, where it’s turned red and patchy from all the dried blood. The small puncture wound sits in the centre, and yes, it doesn’t look that deep. Not deep enough to require sutures. “Yeah, think my jacket took most of the damage.”

“That’s good,” Tim says, uncapping a bottle of alcohol and pouring it over the wound, and Jason hisses at the sting but doesn’t jerk away. “Gonna have to get you some new clothes though.”

“And armour,” Jason adds, cursing himself for not spending a few extra seconds putting his armour on. “Fuck, I left behind everything I own.”

“I’m sorry,” Tim says. He pauses with the bottle hovering over Jason’s arm, biting his lip as if thinking about what to say.

Jason waves him off, then changes the subject. “So what the fuck are you doing at college if you already got a job?”

Tim blinks, then continues cleaning out the wound, wiping at the skin around it with cotton pads. “Perhaps I don’t want to work there forever? Maybe I want to explore my other passions?”

Jason hums. “Don’t tell me one of those is medicine, ‘cause your stitchwork is terrible.”

“I could have left you to do it yourself,” Tim answers dryly, straightening up and pulling away.

”And I would have done it myself. Like I’ve done a hundred times before,” Jason says, but for some reason, he doesn’t feel particularly good about saying it. “But thank you,” he adds hesitantly.

“You’re welcome,” Tim says softly, coming back to wrap gauze around his arm. The moment he touches Jason’s skin, Jason lights up again, the strange tingles from before running through his skin. He doesn’t completely remember last night’s events, but he’s sure the same thing happened the moment Tim touched him. It’s happened every single time they’ve touched, without fail.

It’s bizarre.

“Anything else you want me to look at?” Tim asks when he finishes applying the gauze, and Jason is given a moment of reprieve when Tim lets go of his arm. “Dick didn’t go easy on you.”

“He didn’t go easy on you either,” Jason says, but he takes the offer for what it is. “Chest kinda hurts.”

Tim leans in to inspect Jason’s ribs once he’s done, the tips of his fingers dancing over Jason’s skin, leaving goosebumps in their wake, and the sensation comes back.

Tim’s reaction is plain to see now, Jason watches as his lips part, his gaze going slightly unfocused, his fingers on Jason spreading out to cover more skin.

The heat doesn’t recede, not even when Tim presses a thumb into his skin and he flinches from the pain, or when Tim presses the cold bell of a stethoscope to his chest and listens to him breathe.

Jason shivers. Tim freezes at the movement and takes his fingers away. Jason is released from the mysterious sensation travelling through his body. He can still feel the heat however, though it may just be the heat of Tim’s body.

“No broken ribs, but you’re going to bruise. Should I clean you up?” Tim asks. “Or do you want to do it yourself?”

“A bath would be nice right about now,” Jason answers, looking pointedly at the tub behind Tim.

Tim nods. “Towels are in the cupboard,” he says, then turns to leave, rushing out the door and shutting it behind him.

Jason blinks at the space Tim was occupying. He suddenly feels very cold.

He hops off the counter and heads to the bathtub, running the hot water until the entire bathroom is full of steam, then running the cold so he isn’t scalded when he gets in. Once he tests the water and finds it satisfactory, he steps in, submersing himself and sighing at the enveloping heat.

He should be stressed. He should be worrying over what he’s going to do now that he’s lost his home and everything he owns. But for some reason, he doesn’t feel panicked. He hasn’t felt panicked at all tonight.

Perhaps he’s in shock.

Wouldn’t be the first time, he thinks, sinking further down, bending his knees so he can submerge his chest and shoulders.

He shuts his eyes.

 


 

When he wakes, probably a little over an hour later when the water’s gone cold, there’s a pile of clothes left on the counter for him, and the medical supplies and blood have all been cleaned. His jacket is gone. There’s also two toothbrushes on the counter now, still in their packaging, laid out beside each other.

He puts on the shirt and pants, blinking in surprise that Tim managed to guess his size. He opens one of the toothbrush packages and brushes his teeth, then steps out to the rest of the apartment.

Tim is dozing on the largest sofa, mouth hanging open in a gormless expression, foot and arm hanging off the side.

He’s so careless. Carefree, Jason corrects himself, and it’s little wonder why. He’s an alpha, he’s on top of the world, and he doesn’t have to concern himself with things like heats or wondering if the nearest alpha is going to knot him when he slips up with taking his suppressants.

Jason despises him. Or envies him. He isn’t sure which he feels more.

But there’s something else, something more underneath it all. As he follows the soft curves of his face, the lean lines of his body, he can feel his cheeks warming with so much embarrassment at himself that he refuses to acknowledge what that more is.

Instead he makes his way to the fridge to see what there is, if there is anything, to eat. There are a few Chinese takeaway boxes inside, one plastic container full of fried dumplings that Jason takes out and resumes to eat cold. Once he scoffs them all down, he starts on one of the boxes of noodles.

“Enjoying yourself?” he hears Tim say, voice raspy with sleep.

Jason turns to look at him and sees Tim rubbing at his puffy eyes. “Yeah, I am. Thanks for the food.”

Tim hums. “If we’re going to try and save money, we should probably start cooking proper food.”

“Good idea,” Jason says, shoving a shrimp into his mouth. “You know how to cook?”

“No,” Tim says, getting onto his feet and coming into the kitchen space, “but it can’t be that hard.”

Jason scoffs. Rich people. “It’s harder than you think.”

“I’ll take your word on it then,” Tim says, a little tug at the edge of his mouth. “Perhaps you should teach me.”

Jason doesn’t answer, throwing the now empty plastic container into the sink and heading to the bedroom where he assumes Tim put the rest of his clothes.

“There are more clothes for you in the wardrobe,” Tim calls out to him.

Jason slides the door open and immediately sees a new leather jacket hanging innocently from the rod, his old jacket nowhere to be seen. Tim must have disposed of it. He opens all the drawers and peers through the clothes, feeling his scowl turn deeper and deeper when he realises just how many clothes Tim bought.

He grits his teeth and makes his way back to the living area, and when Tim looks up at him, he growls, “What am I, some sort of doll to you?”

Tim is smiling genially at him. “What do you mean?”

“There are jeans in there, sweaters—”

“If I’d known you’d take offence at jeans of all things I wouldn’t have bought them.”

“It—it’s not the jeans,” Jason snaps, his voice rising with his anger. “It’s the fact that you got all those clothes for me, without asking me first, that they’re all—” He flounders for a second, looking for the right word. Branded. Expensive. “I thought you said we needed to save money.”

“We don’t need to spend frivolously,” Tim says, waving a hand in the air. “But clothes are a necessity. You didn’t have any so I bought some. I bought some for me too, obviously, but they’re in the other wardrobe.”

Jason shakes his head. “Don’t presume to know what I want or need. I’m buying my own clothes.”

Tim shrugs. “Fine. I see no problem with that.”

“Return those,” Jason demands. “Return everything you bought. I’ll buy my own before I get back.”

Tim sits up at that. “Where are you going?”

“To work,” Jason answers.

“Work?” Tim questions, brows furrowed. “Roman?” he hisses when he realises. “You’re really going back there?” he asks, his voice gone high and incredulous.

“I have to. He’s expecting me.”

Tim shakes his head. “You have nothing binding you to him.”

“What about my neighbour? Mrs. Evans?”

“I’ve already sorted her new living arrangements. There’ll be a twenty-four hour watch on her house, she’ll be fine.”

“Good. So that’s settled then.”

“But Jason,” he slips off the sofa onto his feet, coming towards him, “you can’t go back.”

“Why not?” Jason says. “If you’re worried about my safety, I can handle him on my own, I’ve been handling him for almost six months now.”

“Jason, you’re free now,” Tim says insistently, “Roman doesn’t know where you are. He knows nothing about this place, and he can’t hurt your neighbour again. There’s no need to do something that’ll only put you in danger again.”

“Put me in danger?” Jason repeats, feeling the fading annoyance come back and assert itself. “Are you listening to me? I can handle it, he has nothing on me—”

“Nothing?” Tim asks sceptically. “Are you sure? How long are you going to hide the fact that you’re an omega? You can’t keep it up forever—suppressants fail, scents linger—”

“He knows!” Jason blurts impatiently. “He already knows.”

Tim keeps his expression blank. “How did he find out?”

“It doesn’t matter,” Jason says, shaking his head. At Tim’s indignant look, he concedes, “he didn’t—he didn’t do anything like that, but when I was knocked out, he ran some tests and found medication in my blood.”

When he looks down, he sees Tim’s hand clenched into a fist, but it only lasts a second before he’s relaxing his muscles again. “Has he hurt you?” Tim says quietly.

“No,” Jason answers firmly. “No, he hasn’t and he won’t. I won’t let him. I’ve been looking after myself for years, I’ve been taking down drug lords and mafiosos on my own and I’ve never gotten hurt. I’ll be fine.”

Tim looks as if he wants to say more, but he deflates and takes a step back, sighing in defeat.

Jason goes to prepare when he’s sure Tim isn’t going to try and stop him, but before he leaves the apartment, he hears Tim call out to him.

“Jason?”

Jason stops and turns back to look at him.

He’s standing in the doorway of the hall, looking incredibly small as he leans against the frame. He opens his mouth to say something, then seemingly decides against it. He tries again, this time managing a, “See you later.”

“Yeah,” Jason answers.

He shuts the door quietly behind him.

 


 

Chapter Text

Roman is in the middle of pouring himself a glass of scotch when Jason enters the room.

“So,” he says, lifting the glass up to the lips of his mask. “Care to explain what went down in my club the other night?”

Jason eyes him carefully, checking for any signs of anger or some indication that Roman’s found out what happened in between now and the brothel.

“I figured you might’ve heard what happened already,” Jason says, striding across the room and plopping down in the chair in front of Roman’s desk, trying to act casual. “I don’t think there’s any point in me telling you something you already know.”

“Yeah, but I wanna hear it from you,” Roman says, pointing with a finger from the hand wrapped around his glass. “C’mon. You’ve been MIA for a whole day—I wanna know what happened.”

Jason clenches his jaw, thinking over his story before he tells it, checking for anything that might alert Roman to Tim’s involvement or Jason’s apartment being compromised. He settles on relaying the events as truthfully as possible, glossing quickly over the parts with Tim and hoping Roman doesn’t notice.

“I got into Davis’ office, thought I’d spook him for you so I got a little rough.” He shrugs. “No big deal. Nightwing somehow got wind, or he was there coincidentally, I don’t know, he seemed surprised to see me. Either way, he showed up and started making some trouble. I took care of Davis before he could get his hands on him. Then when the asshole tried to arrest me, I threw a smoke and got out of there.”

“So you did kill Davis,” Roman says, nodding thoughtfully to himself. “I thought that was the case, but no one could give me a straight answer.”

“I did,” Jason confirms. “You said it was up to me,” he reminds him.

“So I did. I’m not angry, Jason. You did exactly what I told you to do. It would’ve been more work for me if you’d left him alive and free to continue harassing my workers; all I have to do now is to find someone to replace him.”

“You’re not closing it down?” Jason says in surprise.

“Why would I? The customers have always been loyal, they’ll continue to come. They’re not gonna be scared away by a little murder.”

“What about the girls?”

“What about ‘em? You don’t think they’re happy Davis is gone? I doubt any of them are feeling incredibly sad at his passing.”

Jason’s mind goes back to the omega in the hallway, standing outside of Davis’ office wearing bruises on her skin and walking with a limp. “No, I guess not,” he says. “But surely they wouldn’t want to continue working there after that.”

“What do you suggest then?”

“Give them the option to stay or go. Give them the option of another club. Other jobs.”

“I’ve got a dozen clubs, they’re free to move around,” Roman says easily. “But I’ll let the new manager know.”

“I want to screen whoever you’re sending in,” Jason adds. “I want access to all their files, I want to know what they’re doing in there.” He pauses before adding, “I want access to the club. All of your clubs.”

“Done. Anything else?”

“I want those girls compensated for the abuse they went through, for the emotional and physical trauma. They should all have free access to your doctors.”

“I’ll make it part of the package,” Roman says, spreading his arms to either side, the image of a generous giver.

“Good,” Jason says. “Do I get to ask for anything else or do I only get three wishes?”

“I ain’t a genie, kid, but I can make all your wishes come true. However, I got some other important business to discuss,” he says, putting his glass down and settling into his chair, “I received an interesting visitor yesterday. Came in the dead of night, caught me by surprise. Wouldn’t let me turn around and see him. At first, I couldn’t recognise the voice, thought I was having my chain yanked, but then he mentioned you.”

Jason pushes his foot against Roman’s desk, tilting his chair backwards and looking uninterested. “Oh yeah? Who was it?”

“He wanted to know if you were still hanging around here. He didn’t sound very happy. You might know him, he goes by the name of Bat…”

“Batman,” Jason finishes. He lets all four feet touch the ground again.

He can feel Roman’s eyes on him. “Wanna tell me what that’s all about? I find it particularly worrying if I’m getting visits from the Bat—I’ve already got heat from the cops, I don’t need the Bat on my tail too.”

Jason does his best not to let his alarm show. “It’s nothing. He doesn’t have anything on you, he can’t touch you.”

“Didn’t seem like nothing,” Roman says patiently, tapping a finger against the rim of his glass. “In fact, it seemed like a lot, a generous amount, in fact.”

He feels his heart drop. “He bribed you.”

Roman makes a disgusted noise. “He didn’t bribe me. I don’t do bribes, especially not when I can’t see what I’m getting out of it—besides the money of course. It’s so interesting how desperate he is to get his hands on you though. I might’ve been tempted to give you to him if I didn’t need you here.”

Jason smiles humorlessly. “Doesn’t sound like I have very high job security here if you’re considering getting rid of me already.”

“Jason, my boy, I never said I actually considered getting rid of you. You’re too valuable. And besides, anyone gutsy enough to piss off the Bat and get away with it is an asset in my eyes.”

“Really? Even after I killed your men?”

“Really,” Roman replies. “Some men are expendable. Others are… indispensable.”

It hasn’t escaped Jason’s notice that Roman keeps reiterating that point—that Jason is important to him, that he is held in high regard above the rest. How much of that is true and how much of it is bullshit attempting to pander to Jason’s ego, Jason doesn’t know, but it really doesn’t sound like something a megalomaniac like Roman would do.

But he doesn’t know Roman well enough to just dismiss his claims as lies and false praise. He could be telling the truth, for all he knows, as out-of-touch and idealistic as he sounds. But—it’s a stupid thought wrought with huge risks and basically reliant on a hunch but —maybe, if Roman is truly being serious about finding an heir, Jason can work this to his advantage.

He initially agreed to working for Roman so he could be privy to the illicit goings-on, to gain a greater foothold in the underworld. Now that he’s achieved that, what harm could diving deeper do? What if he accepts the role that Roman seems to have already bestowed on him—what if he plays into being his son? Would Roman believe him? Or would he catch onto the lie?

Jason is very, very tempted to find out, and there isn’t much in the way to stop him. Tim would probably call him an idiot for thinking he can just shmooze his way into Roman’s good graces, but Jason thinks he has a good chance—he’s already gotten this far. Roman is a possessive bastard and a psychotic one at that, but as long as Jason keeps up the loyal soldier angle, Roman won’t have any reason to doubt him.

“Oh,” Jason says, bowing his head slightly, averting his gaze to the floor, because he knows how shy it makes him look. “You know, keep sayin’ stuff like that and I might start believing you.”

“Believe me, Jason. I have a vested interest in watching you grow, seeing how much you’ve brought to me already.” Jason watches as he slowly makes his way around the desk to Jason’s side, leaning against it as he takes another swig from his glass.

“Sorry if I seem… doubtful. I’ve just had a lot of experience being let down by people I put too much faith in.”

“See if I let you down,” Roman says confidently. “Everything you requested will be done by the end of the day. I guarantee it.” He reaches out and places a firm hand on Jason’s shoulder, squeezing it once before he retracts it again. “I’ve gotta ask though, kid,” he says slowly, “what happened to your clothes?”

Jason looks down at himself, at the plain shirt and pants Tim had bought for him, the only clothing he’d let himself use out of all the other expensive clothes left for him in the wardrobe.

“Nightwing found my apartment,” he says, figuring telling the truth in this instance can’t hurt. “He snuck in while I was asleep and drove me out. All my clothes and belongings were there, I can’t go back for them.”

“Where are you staying now then?”

“One of my safehouses,” Jason lies, “near the port.”

Roman stares at him. After a moment of complete silence, he hums thoughtfully. “You could always stay here.”

Jason looks up at him in surprise. “What?”

“I’ve got the space,” Roman says simply. “Bathroom, kitchen, garage, it’s all here. If it’s bills you’re worried about, I could take ‘em out of your pay.”

“It’s not the bills I’m worried about, it’s—where would I stay? I didn’t think this building had any more apartments.”

“Penthouse suite,” Roman answers, reaching down to brush off a piece of fluff off his pants, then looking up to add, “with me.”

“No,” Jason answers immediately. “Thank you for the offer, but no.”

“Why not? You’ve been up there, you know how big the living space is, you’d have your own room, your privacy, hell, you’d even have a three-sixty view of the city.”

Jason shakes his head. “I’d rather keep my home life and my work life separate. And I’d like to keep my privacy.”

“Suit yourself, kid. I’m just telling you, it’d be far better than living in some cramped, damp safehouse in the middle of the port.”

“No doubt it would. But I prefer living down in the midst of the city rather than up above,” he gestures around with a wave.

Roman pushes off the desk, walking back to his cabinet to pour more drink in his glass. “Fine,” he says. “But I want you to go down to my doctors. Get any injuries you might have checked out. I want my best boy performing at his best, and you ain’t gonna be able to do that with broken bones.”

“I don’t have any—”

“Go down anyway,” Roman orders him. “They can give you stuff for those bruises. Come back here when you’re done.”

Jason sighs. “Yes, sir,” he says as he makes his way to the elevator.

The doctors don’t do more than clean up around his sutures and give him meds for his pain, and though they don’t ask questions, Jason knows they’re going to report every detail back to Roman. He hopes his sutures look messy enough that they believe it was done by himself.

When he gets back to Roman’s office, an assistant outside stops him and directs him upstairs to the penthouse suite.

Jason knocks on the door and is answered back with a, “Come in.”

He enters and is greeted by a number of people buzzing around wheeled garment racks on which various items of clothes hang—all black and seemingly tailored by Roman’s assistants.

The man himself is standing off to the side, watching and giving instructions to the assistants.

“What is this?” Jason asks quietly as he makes his way to Roman’s side.

Roman doesn’t answer, instead he points at a rack of pants and tells one of the assistants to take the entire thing away.

“Roman?”

Roman finally turns and acknowledges him, putting his arm around Jason’s shoulders. “This,” he announces, “is for you. Choose whatever clothes you want to take.”

Jason stares. “I didn’t need you to go and get me clothes, what, did you get these tailored for me?”

“No,” Roman says. “These are just some old clothes I had lying around, some were mine, some were meant for my men to wear until I realised they’d only be wasted on them.” He gestures towards an assistant coming towards them with a shirt and pants in hand, another assistant behind her holding a pair of leather shoes. “Try them on,” he says.

Another assistant pulls over a full length mirror. Jason sees his reflection’s cheeks colour.

“Here?” he asks.

“Shy?” Roman says teasingly.

“I’m not taking my clothes off here, Roman,” he growls.

Roman snorts. “Change in your room then.”

Jason is about to argue and say that it isn’t his room but then decides that it’s not worth trying to reason with him. He takes the clothes and shoes from the assistants and makes his way past the bustle into the bedroom, locking the door behind him.

Bright red on top of the wardrobe catches his eye—the copies Roman made of his helmet. He reminds himself to take one before he goes back to the apartment.

He strips quickly, pulling on the pants and feeling himself warm when he realises how snugly they fit, wrapping around his waist and hips perfectly, the outseams following close to his thighs and calves until they end exactly at his ankles. The shirt is perfect as well, not too tight around his arms, the sleeves ending where they should. The shoes are his size too, but they’re a little uncomfortable; Jason isn’t used to wearing leather shoes—Oxfords, he thinks they are—he’s more comfortable in boots.

When he exits the room, Roman himself is being fitted for something, an assistant with a measuring tape at his back, another typing something on a pad.

“Well?” Roman says, hearing Jason advance from behind.

“They fit,” Jason says begrudgingly.

“Good,” Roman says. “You can wear that to my meetings from now on. In fact, you should wear it tomorrow. Think of it as your uniform.”

The assistant with the pad nods to the other and they both step away, and Roman turns around and catches eye of him.

“Ah,” he is all he says. He gestures towards another assistant, and she brings over a leather jacket. He makes Jason turn around and face the mirror while the assistant slips Jason’s arm into the sleeve, then the other, pulling everything into place.

The jacket is almost like his old one, except this one is black, sleeker, and is cut off somewhere between his waist and hips instead of hanging past the belt.

He can admit that he does look good. Roman seems to agree, stepping close behind him in the mirror, Jason watching his head tilt slightly downwards as he runs a critical eye over Jason’s reflection.

“Black,” he says, “really is your colour.”

 


 

He heads back to the apartment, his clothes and helmet from Roman stored safely inside a duffle bag, having bought civvies from the shops to change into on the way.

Tim is inside, typing away at his laptop on the sofa. Jason wonders if he’s done anything else; he looks like he’s just woken up which Jason finds absolutely incredible because it’s six o’ clock at night.

“Hey,” Jason says, trying to get his attention when he doesn’t even look up when Jason enters the room.

“Hey,” Tim greets him, still staring down at the screen.

“You know you can use the bed when I’m not here,” Jason says.

Tim looks up at that. “Why?”

“Why, he asks,” Jason mutters, rolling his eyes. “Because you look uncomfortable there. And if you really aren’t sleeping well, I can—”

“No,” Tim says immediately. “No, you keep the bed. I’ve never been a good sleeper anyway, it’ll be wasted on me.”

Jason shrugs, then makes his way to the kitchen to look for something to eat.

“There’s pizza on the counter,” Tim says.

Jason heats up a few slices in the microwave, then sinks into the sofa opposite the TV, turning it to some mundane reality show just for something to have on in the background while he eats.

He sees Tim slip him a piece of paper, and Jason takes it from him, turning confused when he sees the twenty or so names of people he doesn’t know written on it.

“What is this?” he asks.

“It’s a list. Every person that Roman’s had some sort of dealing with in the past year. Who’s still alive, that is.”

“How did you—”

“I’m very good with computers,” Tim answers simply. “I know that you—you aren’t happy with how things went that night. At the brothel. I thought this might bring you some peace of mind. So that you can keep tabs yourself instead of waiting for Roman to tell you something’s wrong.”

Jason blinks. “Thank you,” he says sincerely, staring at the names on the list. “I’m sorry for earlier, for blowing up on you about the clothes. It was an overreaction.”

“No, you were justified in getting angry.” Tim fidgets for a moment before just holding his hands behind his back. “I should’ve asked before I went out and bought them. I just… assumed. Again. I see now how it looked.”

Jason sighs. “Still. You’ve sacrificed a lot by helping me.”

“It’s no problem. I’ll help you track them down too, if you like. If you see anyone you think you should look into.”

“Sure,” Jason says, pinching his pizza crust between his fingers, a little flustered now. “That’s—why?”

“Why, he asks,” Tim says, his lips tipped into a crooked smile as he echoes Jason’s words back at him. “Because I believe they should get their comeuppance. And it isn’t like I have much else to do.”

Right, so much has happened in the past few days, Jason’s basically forgotten it all until now. “What are you gonna do about your work? College? You’re gonna be MIA. How’s B gonna cover that up?”

“College is easy, everything’s submitted online and all the lectures are recorded and uploaded.” Jason can’t help but notice that he says nothing about his friends. “As for work, I don’t know, but I’m sure Bruce will think of something. He always has backup plans. Maybe he’ll replace me,” he says casually, shrugging his shoulders.

Jason furrows his brow. He was asking about his work for the Wayne Foundation, but he thinks Tim might be talking about a bit more than that. “Just like that? He’d replace you that easily?”

“Nothing about this is easy, Jason. I had my doubts about helping you, but I don’t believe that Bruce should be hunting you down either. I’ve made my choice, and Bruce will adjust accordingly. That’s how he works.”

“He’s cold, isn’t he.”

“He’s practical,” Tim says. “Idealistic too, though he denies it. Sometimes I question the choices he makes, the rules he makes us abide by.”

Jason looks up, but Tim is turned away, closing his laptop and setting it aside, stretching his arms behind his head as he stands.

“In all honesty,” Tim continues, oblivious to Jason’s look of surprise, “I couldn’t see any possible outcome in which you’d leave Davis alive. Doesn’t seem part of your M.O.”

“I was going to,” Jason insists, because he really was going to prolong Davis’ suffering as long as he could. He didn’t think Davis should have been allowed a quick death, and he regrets allowing him to pass so abruptly in comparison to what he was planning to do. “I was going to let him live, but then Dick came in and I—”

“You don’t have to justify it to me, Jason. Between you and me, I think he deserved it.”

He makes his way around the sofa to the hallway, Jason left staring after him.

“I’m going to take a shower,” he calls, and Jason hears a door click shut.

So Tim may not be opposed to Jason’s more… brutal methods. He wonders if the other Bats know about these beliefs—incongruent to their own as they are.

When he was younger, Bruce always said he was too brutal, too violent, but Jason always believed that those scum—rapists, abusers, molesters—deserved it. Bruce, in all his self-righteous alpha glory, had always seemed to resent Jason in his disobedience.

He sometimes wonders if Bruce could somehow tell he was going to present as an omega, if that was his way of keeping Jason suppressed and under his control. He knows Dick’s presentation as an alpha didn’t go over particularly well: Bruce had always avoided talking about Dick, and Jason had bore witness to a number of their arguments, two alphas arguing over who was right, and sometimes who was better. Bruce must have at least hoped Jason wouldn’t turn out to be like his predecessor.

Sometimes, when he’s in a dark mood and he’s thinking of his life before, he wonders if it was Bruce’s fault he turned out to be an omega, if he had one day wished too hard and it had come true. Of course, Jason always pulls himself quickly out of those thoughts—no one can predict what someone might present as, let alone force them to present a certain way. He’ll allow himself to be angry at Bruce for a number of things, but that is not one of them.

He yawns and stretches, then heads to the hallway to check if Tim’s finished showering so he can brush his teeth. He’s just gone through the doorway when the bathroom door abruptly opens, steam wafting out, Tim stepping out wrapped in nothing but his towel.

Jason stares for a second before he realises what he’s doing, then he averts his eyes quickly, feeling his cheeks warm.

“Uh—I—I’m gonna—” He gestures back towards the lounge awkwardly, backing away.

“I’m done,” Tim tells him, oblivious to Jason’s embarrassment. He must have taken a very hot shower—his skin is pink around his chest.

“Yeah, I can see that, um.” He sidesteps Tim and rushes into the warm bathroom, practically slamming the door shut.

He spends a moment or two collecting himself, standing in front of the sink, squeezing his eyes shut and murmuring, “Stupid, stupid, stupid.”

He brushes his teeth quickly, then wipes the floor with the bathroom rug because apparently Tim is one of those people who leaves the floor wet after a shower, then he slips into the bedroom, somehow managing to avoid Tim the rest of the night.

As he’s laying in bed and staring up at the ceiling, he’s still chastising himself for it, because honestly, what the fuck is he doing?

Tim is an alpha. Jason doesn’t trust alphas, and yet he’s living with one and getting all flustered at seeing him without a shirt.

This isn’t him. It’s his stupid omega hormones telling him there’s a viable partner nearby, Jason isn’t falling for that shit.

He falls asleep quickly, exhausted from the events of the last twenty-four hours, and he doesn’t dream about the way the water dripped off Tim’s hair onto his skin, the droplets sliding down his abdomen until they absorbed into the towel wrapped around his slight waist. He thinks about it, however, very vividly, until he forces himself to stop.

 


 

Now that Jason’s had more than two hours of sleep, and has been able to recuperate after that fucking battle with Dick on the rooftop, he’s had some time to clear his thoughts.

And the sudden clarity brings with it the anxiety that he’s placing too much trust in Tim. He has no doubt that he’d be able to incapacitate the boy if he needs to, as long as he’s not hiding another fucking taser anywhere. And really, the idea becomes more tempting with the realisation that Jason doesn’t really need his help. As soon as he gets his next paycheck from Roman, he could leave and find a place of his own, leave Tim to struggle alone without any assistance or funds from his pack.

But—

Jason understands the feeling of being abandoned. He can relate all too much. And though Tim doesn’t appear to be very affected by recent happenings, Jason suspects that he may be feeling more discouraged than he’s letting on, that they may share more in common than he initially thought. Though Jason never came back to the Wayne pack after his death, he still had his run-ins with them, and they definitely let their feelings known about his actions, confirming his decision to never return. When your pack has rigid, unswaying rules and beliefs that conflict with your own, when they turn on you for not conforming to their ways, it isn’t worth trying to change yourself to fit in.

What he does not and will never relate to, however, is Tim being an alpha. How he managed to go for this long hiding it, Jason has no idea, though seeing how meticulous Tim is in certain aspects makes him suspect that it was simply a matter of a diligent suppressant schedule and an impeccable sense of timing. There are, after all, no articles on the internet revealing Timothy Drake-Wayne’s designation.

He wonders why he chooses to hide it. If he were an alpha, he wouldn’t hide it. He wouldn’t need to. Alphas are at the top of the world, they have nothing to worry about save for where they’re going to put their knot. What does Tim need to worry about?

He gives himself a headache trying to think of reasons for Tim’s behaviour. And—Jesus, why is he acting like he even cares anyway? He doesn’t. He’s just bored, of course.

He’s awake, and it’s almost noon, and Tim isn’t up yet. He’s just bored.

He enters the lounge very quietly, aiming to retrieve Tim’s laptop to get some research done. He creeps past Tim on the couch and only glances briefly at his face to check if he’s still asleep. Deeming him thoroughly unconscious, Jason takes his laptop into the bedroom and props up some pillows, getting comfortable.

He sets the list Tim gave him down beside him and pulls Tim’s laptop onto his lap. He spends a few hours gathering some data on the first few names on the list, and is just about to take a break when he hears a knock at his door.

“Hey,” Tim’s voice says, muffled, “you have my laptop?”

“Yeah,” Jason answers, getting up to open the door. “Just looking into those names you found. Need it back?”

Tim smiles, rubbing sleepily at his eyes. “No, no, you’re welcome to keep using it.”

Jason nods then scoots past Tim, leaving the laptop on the coffee table as he heads to the kitchen. Tim bought a few groceries yesterday, so he makes some oatmeal for himself, chopping up a banana to put on top.

While he’s doing this, Tim comes and sits at the island, sipping on a mug of coffee.

“I also want to talk to you about Roman,” he says as the microwave dings. “I have a suspicion about him I need to allay, and the only way to do that is through you.”

Jason narrows his eyes, his full attention caught. “What sort of suspicion?”

Tim looks regretful. “I’m not even entirely sure. I’ve only heard whispers, but they could easily just be the gossip of fear mongers. You haven’t seen anything,” he says, the question posed more as a statement.

“No,” Jason answers, taking his bowl out and squeezing honey over it. “But I’ve had my suspicions for a while too. He’s said shit before like, ‘I’m a busy man and you wouldn’t understand,’ when I ask him what the fuck he does aside from all the other shit, but it’s almost like he has nothing to hide. I’ve been in almost every room of that building, I’ve searched through every square inch of his labs and storage areas—there’s nothing.”

“Perhaps he’s keeping things offshore,” Tim says. “Even just in another building perhaps?”

“I don’t know,” Jason says. “It could be nothing.”

“Or it could be something,” Tim answers.

“Or it could be something,” Jason repeats, nodding. “I’ll have to do some more digging. Gain access to his restricted files.”

“I can help you with that,” Tim says. “But you’d need to smuggle me in.”

“Easy. The security is almost laughably lax, I could have you in and out without anyone ever suspecting a thing.”

A smile slowly grows on Tim’s lips. “You know the tower well?”

“I’ve memorised the guard’s routes and the locations of all the cameras. I know how to disable his security systems without alerting him too. Like I said, laughably easy.”

“Oh, I know,” Tim says, “I’ve been inside before.”

“You’ve been inside?” Jason repeats incredulously.

“Yes. Not as Red Robin though, but as Tim Drake. Under the guise of an enquiry about an internship.”

Jason releases a puff of laughter. “You’re gutsy.”

“I’m mostly stubborn,” Tim says, “and a little overconfident. I’d call them my failings if they didn’t actually get me places.”

“Into trouble, you mean.”

Tim laughs softly. “It would seem that way. It is, after all, how I became Robin.”

Jason tenses up the moment the word leaves Tim’s mouth. “So what, you beg Batman for the gig until he gave it to you?”

The smile on Tim’s face disappears in the blink of an eye, and he purses his lips. “Convinced him, actually.”

“You always wanted to be Robin? Dreamt about it when you were small?”

For a long moment it seems as if Tim isn’t going to reply. Then he seems to deflate a little, his voice lowering as if he’s bestowing Jason with a secret. “I didn’t always. In fact, I never wanted to be, but it became a necessity when Batman lost you.”

“What do you mean,” Jason says warily, unsure if he wants to hear the answer.

“He became… brutal after you. He was angry, merciless… He was beginning to border on the precipice of killing. It took a lot to convince him to take me on but he needed me. He needed a Robin.” When Jason stays silent, taking this all in, he asks, “You haven’t heard this before, have you? He hasn’t told you.”

Jason shakes his head. “It doesn’t matter.”

“I understand your anger, but—”

“No, you don’t,” Jason says lowly. “You know nothing about me so don’t pretend you do.” He looks back down at his bowl of oatmeal, but finds he isn’t hungry anymore. He leaves the bowl on the counter.

“I looked up to you when I was younger, you know,” Tim says quietly. “When you were Robin, I used to sneak out—”

“I don’t want to hear about this,” Jason snaps, cutting him off, and Tim blinks in surprise. “Whatever nostalgia you’re holding onto, forget about it. Being Robin was the worst thing that ever happened to me, being a part of that pack —or any pack for that matter—is something I will never go back to. I don’t care if it’s supposed to be in my nature, I work better alone.”

Tim’s expression goes from open to closed in a matter of seconds as he listens to Jason talk. “You sound like Bruce when you say that.”

Jason is about to snap at him for that too, but he restrains himself, shutting Tim’s laptop instead and shoving it in his hands. “The only reason I’m accepting your help is because we’ll work faster together. I can easily do this all on my own.”

“No doubt,” Tim replies, and Jason can, for once, see the angle of annoyance in his brow that gives him away, “but are you going to throw this all away just because I said something that made you angry?”

“Believe me, you’ve done more than say something that makes me angry. Or do I have to remind you of all the lies you’ve told me, or the stalking—”

“And you’re entitled to your anger—”

“Oh, good to know I’m entitled to that,” Jason snarls, and with that, he leaves for the bedroom and shuts the door.

He changes into his clothes for work, only slightly grateful that Tim hasn’t followed after him, then storms out again, ignoring Tim completely as he leaves for Roman’s tower.

 


 

Roman doesn’t try convincing him to stay at his tower again. Rather, Jason spends the day supervising his men at another site while Roman travels elsewhere for a meeting. When Jason asks, Roman pats him once on the arm and tells him, “Don’t worry about me. Worry about those men you’re escorting, Red. If they mess up, I want to know.”

Now that Jason’s paying more attention, he realises that Roman does do a lot of travelling by himself, that he attends a lot of private meetings that Jason doesn’t know the reasons for. He considers following him, but he turns and sees two of Roman’s most trusted lieutenants watching him closely, so he goes to the site he was assigned to and promises himself: another day.

When another day comes, then another, then a whole week, and he still hasn’t managed to seize any opportunity to follow Roman, Jason realises that he’s going to have to fall back on Tim to get anything done.

When he arrives back at the apartment, Tim is sitting on the couch again, laptop propped up on his knees.

“I have a lead.”

“On?” Jason prompts, reaching down to untie his laces and kick his boots off. It’s become routine, ever since he insisted on keeping the apartment spotless like it was when they first moved in. Tim tries his hardest to adhere to his rules, he notes, but it seems messiness is just an inherent trait of the Wayne pack.

He leaves dishes in the sink, piling up until Jason is forced to wash them, he leaves water on the floor after showers. And though these habits are somewhat forgivable, Jason finds it infuriating when he insists that he is helping with upkeep, even though Jason only sees him doing the bare minimum.

Luckily, his pay is coming at the end of the week, and then he can move out as soon as possible. Tim has also told him he’s managed to gain access to his funds again. They won’t have to deal with living together for much longer.

“One of the men on the list,” Tim says, quirking a brow up at him from the sofa in a way that Jason has come to learn means that he is being quietly judged. “We need to meet my contact though. She wants to meet us at a restaurant tonight.”

“Sounds great, you have fun,” Jason mumbles, shuffling quickly to the bedroom in a bid to somehow outrun the ensuing conversation.

“What? You’re not coming?”

Jason pauses at the door. “Well, do both of us need to be there?”

“Probably not, but I mean… it’d be nice to go out and eat. It isn’t nice being cooped up in here.”

“That’s on you,” Jason says. “I get enough fresh air—well, Gotham air. You’re not shackled here, you can go outside, you know.”

“I do go outside,” Tim says, rolling his eyes. “I mean, it’d be nice to eat something that isn’t served in a cardboard box. And I used to go out for dinner at the end of every week with my friends.”

“Well, I’m not your friend, am I?” Jason says coldly.

Tim purses his lips, aiming an unwavering glare at Jason. “A simple no would suffice,” he mutters, shutting his laptop and pushing it off his lap as he stands.

When he looks up at Jason again, he seems to do a double take. Though his face is initially blank, he stills and frowns when his gaze travels downwards.

“Whose clothes are those?”

Jason clenches his teeth, having anticipated this conversation and predicting that Tim would react exactly like this. He’s managed to go a whole week without Tim noticing, rushing off to change before Tim could see—he’d thought he was off the hook.

“Those are expensive materials,” Tim observes, cold eyes roaming over Jason’s outfit. “Tailored. I thought you said you didn’t want expensive clothes.”

“I don’t,” Jason says. “These were given to me.”

Tim’s eyes flash up to his, and though Jason hates the feeling of his chilly gaze, he steels himself and glares back. “By Roman?”

“Yes, by Roman,” Jason answers impatiently.

Tim continues staring, his gaze obviously heavy with judgment but his mouth staying shut.

“I’m going to change now,” Jason says, not waiting for Tim to say anything more, pushing the door open and shutting it behind him, making sure the lock on the knob is turned.

He hears the shower start up, and after he’s changed and opened Tim’s laptop back up, continuing his research from earlier, Tim comes out, wearing a collared shirt and leather shoes.

“Fancy restaurant?” Jason says snidely, pausing in his typing.

Tim, who probably just had a nice, relaxing, hot shower, turns stiff as he walks to the sink to grab a glass of water.

Jason laughs darkly. “Again, you think you have any right to be angry at me?”

“I’m human, Jason,” Tim finally snaps. “I’m allowed to feel, no matter what your opinion of me may be. Your anger towards me may be warranted, but that doesn’t negate the fact that I might be a little angry too.”

“So what? You gonna kick me out of your penthouse? Had enough of playing pretend with me?”

“Kick you out? Playing pretend? What on earth are you talking about? Why would I ever kick you out, we’re both being hunted by Batman. And play pretend —like we haven’t been avoiding speaking more than a few sentences to each other the entire time we’ve been here.”

“You just said it—we can barely tolerate each other—so why are you so insistent on helping me, on doing all this shit with Black Mask?”

Tim’s face is impassive. “I would explain my reasons to you, but I have a feeling you’ll just shut me down again.”

“Because I was Robin,” Jason says, making a guess based on Tim’s words prior, “is that it? But I’m not Robin anymore, I’m far from it, actually.”

“Obviously,” Tim says. “It isn’t so much that you were Robin, but you were my Robin. It was you I saw swinging in the night with Batman, it was you I looked up to. And then you died, and Batman was a wreck. So forgive me if I’m not especially eager for you to disappear again.”

“You’re ridiculous. Holding onto your childhood idol who wasn’t even that great a Robin anyway. I died on the job, Drake.”

Tim is looking away now, shaking his head. “You wouldn’t understand.”

“No. Guess I wouldn’t. Don’t think I’d ever be able to understand the little stalker who’s been following me throughout my entire life. From Robin till now, huh? You really just don’t know how to give up.”

Tim’s nostrils flare, his entire body locks up, but just when Jason’s sure he’s about to yell, he turns away, taking his jacket from the couch and putting it on.

“Where are you going?” Jason goads, just because he can, “Afraid you’ve started something you’re going to lose?”

“I’m going out to dinner,” Tim huffs, his voice the lowest Jason’s ever heard it, “with my friend.”

Jason’s feeling especially petty tonight, so he mutters, “Glad to know you still have any.”

Tim pauses at the door, but Jason doesn’t turn to look at him.

“Yes. It’s a shame I can’t say the same to you.”

The door closes with a slam.