Time ticked on, and Roy got antsy. He couldn’t think of a reason why either. It wasn’t like he was going on a date with Jason or anything. Just a meetup between old friends. Completely platonic. Yep.
He had a lot of things on his mind right now, so it’d be nice to hang out with a friend . The whole Red Hood ordeal had shaken him up and talking to a pal could help distract him from that. Especially if that buddy is someone strong and capable- just the type of person to ward off masked murderers.
Roy sat around his office, not really doing anything for most of the morning. He stared at the ugly neon magenta clock that hung above the office door. At some point, Roy couldn’t remember when, he had moved from his worn leather seat and laid out on the equally ugly hot pink fuzzy carpet on the floor. Once lunchtime rolled around, he changed into some normal clothes. The normal clothes being a button-down and nice pair of jeans. He forwent his normal t-shirt, not because of his not-date, but because he just wanted to look nice. At least, that’s what he told himself.
He had the two sense to pack his nicer clothes in his bag along with the papers he’d been carrying around. If he had left the house looking anything but casual, Lian would get ideas. She may have been young, but she’s watched enough movies to catch the telltale signs of someone going out.
When it was almost time to meet Jason, Roy left his garage, still wearing his drawstring. The walk to the café was uneventful and Roy’s inner thrill-seeker was disappointed in that, but he made it there on time. Go figure that the one time he makes it to a date on time, it was with someone he could actually give the superhero excuse to.
Not a date. He reminded himself.
Upon entering the café, Roy found that Jason was very easy to spot thanks to his tall build and white streak of hair. He was sitting in a corner booth, wearing the same leather jacket as the day before, and Roy felt his lean towards women shift a little further away. He fidgeted with the drawstring over his shoulder as he walked over to Jason. He really needed to stop being so thirsty.
“Hey, Jaybird.” Roy greeted, trying to ignore the dry feeling in his throat.
Jason’s head snapped up from the book he was reading. It looked at least five times the size of Lian’s from last night. Roy couldn’t fathom how much time it would take to read something that thick. Maybe Jason would have some book recommendations for Lian or something like that.
“Roy,” Jason said. “You’re on time.”
Offended, Roy places his hands and his hips. “Ye of little faith,”
Jason grinned and all of Roy’s earlier nerves dissipated. “No. Just practical. Take a seat?”
Roy obliged and sat across from Jason. Taking a look around the café, Roy noticed how much Jason’s dark attire really stood out. The place was decorated in light pastels of blue and pink, the former matching Roy’s shirt. Even with his bright hair, Roy didn’t stand out as much as the man before him. Although, Roy dug the look. It had a “bad boy” vibe about it, but it didn’t really work since Roy already knew what a softie Jason was.
“So, I didn’t really plan this properly,” Jason admitted. “I don’t have casual meetings with friends all that often anymore.”
“Hey, that’s no problem,” Roy assured. “How about we get something to eat and you can tell me about your book. If you want that is.”
Jason’s eyes lit up and Roy found it more adorable then he should’ve. He nodded before getting up, Roy tagged along behind and definitely didn’t sneak a glance or two at his butt. Nope.
At the counter, Jason ordered himself some green smoothie and a muffin. Then, he turned and asked Roy what he wanted. Roy tried insisting that he could pay for his own food, but Jason insisted back that he had money from Bruce that he could use. Roy opened his mouth to keep arguing, but the fixed gaze Jason gave him made him back down and give out an order of coffee, a bagel, and a brownie. The latter for Lian.
While they watched their drinks be made, Roy hummed to himself, not trusting his mouth to form anything other than words to deter Jason from buying things for him again. The song he was humming was one of the songs his band had played back in the day. Jason glanced at him, recognition flashed in his eyes, but he didn’t say anything.
When their order was called, Jason waved Roy away, back to the table, while he grabbed their food and drinks.
“You know,” Roy said, still standing next to Jason while watching him struggle to pick up everything. “I’m a grown man who can take care of himself.”
Jason’s brows furrowed and he let out an embarrassed huff before handing Roy his food. “I was just trying to be nice,”
“I appreciate it, Jay. Let’s go sit down, yeah?” Roy said with a smile, and lead the way back to their table.
They slid back into their seats across from each other, and Roy took a large gulp of his coffee. It was still pretty hot, meaning he almost spat it out all over the table, causing Jason to choke on his smoothie when he started laughing at Roy’s face. A few other patrons turned towards them, clearly distasteful to their coughing and snickering. Roy yanked Jason’s smoothie towards himself and began downing it in hopes that it would chill the burns in his throat.
“What’s it been? Almost a decade? And you still do stupid crap like that?” Jason laughed. “Jeez, Roy. The cup even says caution on it.”
“Reading is more Lian’s forte,” Roy muttered and slid Jason’s smoothie back across the table. “What’s in that? Grass?”
Jason huffed out another laugh. “Just vegetables. Gotta keep my iron good.”
“Are you a health buff now?” Roy teased.
Jason shrugged and grinned around his straw. Roy tried to not think about how his mouth was on that same straw just a few seconds ago. “Dying once made me want to take care of my body more. No biggie.”
“I’m gonna have to get used to the death jokes, aren’t I?” Roy took a bite out of his bagel.
Jason nodded, pushing his drink aside and pulling his muffin closer. “Doesn’t make you uncomfortable, does it?”
“Nah. Just don’t do it around Lian and we’ll be all good.”
“Noted. Anything else I should avoid doing around her?”
Roy thought for a moment. “Do you still smoke?”
“No smoking or drinking around kids is a personal rule of mine. Don’t worry.”
Smiling, Roy nodded. “Glad to hear that,”
The two settled into a comfortable silence. Roy looked out the window while he finished his bagel and waited for his coffee to cool. Meanwhile, Jason also watched out the window, but eventually turned back to his book and began reading again. Curiosity getting the best of him, Roy asked, “What are you reading?”
Jason looked up. He placed his bookmark on his current page and closed the book. Roy could see the golden font on the green cover. “Robin Hood,”
Roy snorted. Then cleared his throat. “I don’t remember it being that long. Then again, I’ve only seen the movies.”
“It’s a collection of different iterations,” Jason explained. “Mixed with some history about all the different versions. Pretty interesting stuff actually.”
“Really? What made you wanna read it?” Roy asked and snatched Jason’s half-finished muffin. He watched Roy finish it off, but didn’t seem to mind.
“I like outlaws. And running into a certain someone made me want to read it again.” Said Jason, and Roy could hear his change in tone. It was the same one from when Jason addressed him at the supermarket.
“Oh yeah? You run into Ollie?” Roy joked.
Jason leaned back against the booth, crossing his arms over his chest. “How’s he been?” He said a little gruffly, as if he wasn’t sure if he was allowed to ask.
“Really great,” Roy answered. “We made up a while ago. Honestly, our relationship is the best it’s ever been. We spend holidays together and everything. He’s even paying my rent.”
“I could pay your rent,” Jason replied immediately.
Laughing, Roy said, “I don’t need a sugar daddy, Jaybird. But thanks for the offer.”
Jason’s face flushed a deep red and he sunk down in his seat slightly. It reminded Roy of one time in the tower when Dick had scowled a younger version of the man before him. Jason had taken the same look then, face red and shoulders hunched high.
“You don’t need to impress me with money or anything. I already like you, Jay. You know that.” Roy finally said when Jason looked just about ready to self-implode.
“No I don’t,” he muttered.
“Well, then I’m telling you now. I like you plenty. In fact, we’ve shared at least two indirect kisses so that has to count for something.” Roy said cheerily. Jason only seemed to get more embarrassed at that. “Maybe I only know the you from back then, but as far as I can tell, you’re still the same. Just a little rougher around the edges. Something bad happened to you when you came back, right?”
Jason gave a mute nod.
“You don’t have to talk about it but know that I’m here to support you. It’s what friends do.” Roy finished.
“You consider us friends?”
Roy reached out across the table, hand outstretched. Jason eyeballed it for a moment, then placed his atop Roy’s while leaning forwards. Roy smiled. “Don’t you? We might not be the closest of buds, but I wouldn’t mind that changing. I’m serious about getting to know each other. You’re really cool, Jaybird.”
Sincerity must’ve been Jason’s personal Kryptonite because the red on his face rivaled that of Roy’s hero suit. It was certainly a sight he could get used to; it brought out Jason’s eyes nicely.
“It’d be nice to have a friend other than Dick and Donna,” Jason admitted. “I guess I could kinda count Koriand’r too. You know, I ran into her accidentally. She got so upset when I told her to keep me being back a secret. You wouldn’t believe it.”
“Oh, I can believe it. We all missed you a lot, so I can see why she’d want to tell everyone you’re back. When I figured out you were you, my first instinct was to tell everyone. I didn’t do that, of course. Not even Lian knows.” Roy said and leaned back. Already missing the warmth of Jason's hand.
"Does she know about me? In general?" Jason asked hopefully.
Roy nodded. "I've told her some stories. Mostly just ones that put you in a good light."
"Awh. So, no story about the time we egged our dads' places?"
Roy let out a loud laugh and covered his mouth so he wouldn't disturb other customers again. "I forgot about that! God, they were so mad. I definitely didn't tell Lian about that. I'd probably cry if she ever has a rebellious streak like that."
"I'd encourage it,"
"Suddenly you're not allowed to see my daughter ever again,"
Jason snorted. "C'mon, Roy. She's gonna need her Uncle Jay!"
"For what?" Asked Roy with a smile. He wouldn't really stop Jason from seeing Lian. He found it hard to deprive anyone of seeing Lian. And he liked Jason so it'd be hard to divide time between the both of them.
"I dunno yet. Tutoring maybe."
"Hmm," Roy curled his finger around his chin like he was thinking. "You were always pretty smart- book-wise."
"Oh please. I'm an academic genius. With my book brain and your bot brain, she'll be winning every science fair." Said Jason, grinning cockily.
"Promising a bright future for my daughter? You really know the way to a man's heart, huh, Jaybird?" Roy teased.
Although it was dying down, the red in Jason's face lingered. "It's a learned practice,"
They continued their conversation. The direction starting with how Lian was in school and her archery practice, to Roy's work and how he's trying to expand his business.
"Speaking of that," The redhead said quietly. "You won't believe who dropped by today."
Jason quirked a brow, his mouth forming a firm frown. "Who?"
Roy got up from his side of the booth and maneuvered around to sit next to Jason. He pressed close and talked in a low voice to stop any wandering ears from hearing.
"The Red Hood,"
"He came to your shop? Did you see him?" Surprisingly, Jason didn't sound too worried.
"No, but he left a note behind. With his mask drawn on it."
Jason didn't look impressed.
"I know what you're thinking," Roy defended. "But I kinda had his jacket and it was missing this morning and the note was there."
"Already wearing his jacket? You guys move pretty fast, Harper."
"I was holding onto it so the cops couldn't trace DNA off it or something." Roy huffed.
"But did you wear it?" Insisted Jason.
"Does that really matter?" Hissed Roy.
Jason grinned. "It matters a lot, actually. The guy left you a note. He totally likes you."
"Jesus, Jason. What are you? Twelve?"
Jason just laughed in response. "So you can dish out teases all day but as soon as they're aimed at you..."
"Times like this make it real obvious how much younger than me you are," Roy sulked.
"No. I'm just funnier."
"I'm literally going to kick your ass,"
"I'd like to see you try,"
Snorting, Roy playfully punched Jason’s shoulder. “Fine. This weekend after my job.”
“It’s a da-”
Both heads snapped up and zeroed in on the blond girl that had yelled to Roy. Mia waltzed up to them with a smile and Roy returned the gesture. “Hey, punk.”
She slid into the booth across from the men and cast a curious glance at Jason before settling her gaze on Roy. No one said anything for a few seconds, then Mia sighed and held her hand out across the table. “I’m Mia,” she said. “You are?”
“Peter,” Jason said and shook her hand.
“Oh. I was supposed to introduce him.” Roy realized.
Mia grinned. “Duh,”
“I don’t do formalities that much. Cut me some slack.” Protested Roy.
“If we started doing that, then you’d stop pulling your weight around.” Jason pointed out.
“Exactly!” Agreed Mia. “We gotta be tough on you, Roy.”
Not knowing what to say to that, Roy reached across Jason to take his smoothie again. As soon as he brought the straw to his lips, Jason called him out.
“You literally still have a whole coffee, dude.”
Without really thinking, Roy muttered around the straw, “Indirect kiss,”
Jason whacked him on the back of the head, making him choke up smoothie. As he coughed into his elbow, he caught Mia’s absolutely ecstatic look. “Shut up,” he said.
Mia raised her hands in defense. “I didn’t even say anything!”
“You were thinking it!”
“Thinking what?” Jason asked.
“You shut up too!” Roy feel the color climbing up the back of his neck and cursed himself for wearing a shirt that would definitely enhance the reddening of his skin.
Jason shook his head fondly and reached across the table to take Roy’s forgotten coffee. “Glad to know you treat all your friends like this, at least.” He said, taking a sip.
“Oh. So you’re not boyfriends.” Mia said. If Roy wasn’t so focused on trying to force the blush on his cheeks to go away, he would’ve noticed that Jason had shifted the cup higher while he drank so that it blocked the majority of his face from Mia’s view.
“Well, would you look at the time!” Roy said, not looking at the time. “I need to go pick up Lian. Jay, would you like to come with?”
Jason wiped his mouth with the back of his hand and nodded. “Nice meeting you,” he said to Mia as he collected his trash and book.
“Ollie is gonna love hearing about your new boy, Roy.” she singsonged, causing both men to freeze despite the joking nature of the comment.
“He can’t know. Mia, don’t tell him, please.” Roy pleaded, voice edging of desperate. “Don’t tell anyone about Jay. Not yet at least.”
Mia had a skeptical look on her face that worried Roy. To his side, he noticed Jason’s shoulders tense. Slowly, the grin fell from Mia’s lips and her eyes hardened.
“What...Roy, why not?” She asked, an undertone of fear clinging to her words. “Who is he?”
“ Mia, ” Roy said in his dad-voice. It was something he’d been working on, like a secret superpower, and it worked.
“Fine,” Mia said, standing up. She jabbed her finger into Jason’s chest, the same way Roy had when Jason showed up at his shop. “Listen here, Peter, or Jay, or whoever the hell you are. I dunno what your deal is, but if anything happens to any of the Harpers, you’re a dead man.”
The corner of Jason’s mouth twitched. “I’ll let you in on a secret, kid. I don’t plan on letting anything happen to either of them. Focus on catching the real bad guys, alright Speedy?”
He pushed past Mia, grabbing Roy’s arm and tugging him along. Roy threw Mia an apologetic look, or at least what he hoped looked apologetic. She mouthed a, “Call me,” and Roy nodded curtly.
Once they were out of the café and out of sight, Jason stopped. Too distracted by his own erratic heartbeat, Roy bumped into the slightly taller man. “Sorry-” he started but was cut off by Jason’s hand over his mouth.
“I’m sorry. To you and her. She seems like a good kid, so make sure she knows.” He said.
Roy pulled Jason’s hand away from his mouth. “Jaybird, it’s okay. I’m not going to fault you for being protective.” He wrapped his own hand around Jason’s wrist. “I’ll smooth things over with Mia. Don’t worry about it. We don’t need you getting any more white hairs.” Roy gave a lopsided grin and flicked Jason’s bangs with his free hand.
“Thank you,” Jason said, eyes following the movement of Roy’s hand, causing him to go crosseyed.
“It’s what friends are for, stupid. Now let’s go get Lian.”