It turned out, they actually had plenty of time before Lian was let out of school. So, Roy and Jason found themselves seated on a bench overlooking a small pond a few minutes away from Lian’s school. Every now and then, Jason would point out a bird and name the type. He had explained that after becoming Robin, he thought it’d be funny to study ornithology. Somehow, he accidentally got really into it, and would often find himself mentally naming birds while on patrol.
“All there really was, was pigeons though. Gotham’s diversity lies in crime more than anything else. Sometimes there were vultures, but it was easy to confuse those with the people there.” Jason’s eyes were glazed over like he was reliving the past as he talked about it.
“Ever think about writing poetry?” Roy asked, half to lighten the mood and half to just ask. Jason had an obvious thing for dramatics. Roy would bet money that if he lived just a little longer, he would’ve ended up in theater like Dick had.
“Making fun of me, Harper?” Jason’s eyes refocused and he turned to the redhead.
Roy shrugged. “You got a knack for language, man. Reading all those books paid off. Add that to troubled childhood and whatnot and you got the recipe for literary genius.”
Jason cocked his head to the side. “You don’t think it’s a bunch of emo BS?”
“Not really,” Roy shifted and leaned back more against the bench. “Everyone expresses themselves in different ways, and everyone lets out their feelings in different ways. I think it’s neat to be able to do it in a creative way.”
Jason hummed and leaned back next to Roy. He closed his eyes. “Dick made fun of me for it once. Poetry that is.”
Roy turned his head to face Jason. “So, you did write.”
“Yeah. We had a unit in middle school that got me into it. The teacher was pretty cool too. She told me to enter contests and stuff, but I never did.” Jason’s eyes slipped closed and he had a faint smile on his lips. “I wrote all the way into high school. Alfred knew, even listened to me read some of it. Dick walked in on me reading it one time, I don’t think he was purposely trying to pick on me, but I was embarrassed for weeks. I quit writing for nearly a month.”
“You do get embarrassed pretty easily,”
“Do you want to lose your trachea?” Jason’s eyes opened to glare at Roy.
“Roy, you’re an idiot.”
“Takes one to know one,” Roy countered, still watching his friend.
Jason let out a low laugh, turning his head back to stare up at the sky. Roy noticed that when the sky reflected against Jason’s eyes, they turned to a shade between turquoise and aquamarine, rather than their usual greenish teal color.
Said eyes flicked toward him. “What are you looking at, Red?”
“A closet poet with an eye for birds and love for classic literature. Among other things.” Quipped Roy.
“Remind me what that means again?”
“It’s when you ask a question that you don’t actually expect an answer to,”
“Why would you ask something if you don’t want an answer?”
Roy chuckled. “Makes sense now,”
Jason rolled his eyes and stood up. Roy watched as he lifted his arms above his head and stretched. He looked back at Roy with a mischievous grin. “Drop your bag and phone on the bench,”
Although confused at the odd request, Roy placed his belongs on the bench and stood up. As he was doing so, Jason stripped off his leather jacket. Then he kicked off his shoes, and Roy got the idea. Following suit, he took his work boots off and tossed them next to the bench. He hesitated a moment before unbuttoning his shirt and laying it with everything else.
When he turned back to the pond, and Jason, he noticed the younger man was staring very intently at his arms. “I haven’t shown off my ink to you yet,” Roy explained while flexing. “Cool, right?”
“Huh?” Jason jerked slightly. “Oh, yeah. Real cool. I like the right one a lot.”
Roy raised an eyebrow in concern at Jason’s choppy sentences but said nothing. Instead, he walked closer to Jason, his teal eyes wide, and abruptly shoved him square in the chest.
There was a loud squawk, followed by a splash, as Jason fell backward. Sputtering, Jason sat up and shook the water out his hair and face. Roy stared down at him amused, and very proud of himself. “You looked a little hot. So, I figured you could use a swim.” Roy said, settling his hands on his hips.
“It was my idea to get in the water! Which I now regret. I think there’s algae in my buttcrack.” Jason complained, completely serious.
Roy snorted, then snickered, then full-on laughed, clutching his stomach and doubling over. It wasn’t even that funny, but for some reason, Roy lost it. He was so distracted with trying to catch his breath that he didn’t hear the sound of Jason moving in the water. The next thing he knew, he was face planting into the soft bank of the pond.
Pulling his head up with a gasp, he whipped his face around to the sound of laughter. Through the hair that had fallen into his face, he saw Jason next to him, laughing with his head thrown back. The sight and sound made Roy crack up all over again.
Once their laughter had died down, Roy had laid back in the water. It wasn’t that deep- just enough to cover his lap if he was sitting down. He closed his eyes and listened to the sound of the water lapping at the edges of the pond. In the distance, some birds tweeted, and Roy briefly wondered if Jason could identify them on their sound too.
“Hey, Jay?” He asked. “The birds making noise right now, what kind are they?”
“Tell me about them?”
The water shifted with Jason’s movements as he moved closer to Roy. “It’s called the Sialia Mexicana. They usually have good meanings, anything from small good fortune to child-like joy.”
Roy hummed in response. “What about blue jays, Jaybird? That’d be your bird right?”
“I, uh, I guess so..”
Roy cracked an eye open to look at Jason. “Well, what do they mean?”
“It depends on where you look, but usually stuff like intelligence, curiosity, loyalty, and uh, passion,” Jason said, pointedly avoiding eye contact.
Roy flicked water at him with a grin. “Yep. That’s your bird. What do you think mine is?”
“A mockingbird,” Jason said with no hesitation. “They’re kinda like blue jays, even have some of the same symbolic meanings like intelligence and loyalty, but they’re a little less aggressive. Except when their brood is threatened. Other than that, they’re happy and playful.”
“You don’t have to flatter me, Jay,” Roy said, a little surprised that Jason had already thought about his bird kin or whatever.
“I’m not,” said Jason defensively. “You’re a mockingbird and now you have to live with it.”
“Well, I guess my fate can’t be too bad if you’re deciding it,” Roy said.
Before Jason could reply, the alarm on Roy’s phone went off, signaling that Lian was going to be released from school in just a few minutes. The pair scurried out the water and rushed back onto shore.
Jason shoved his jacket into Roy’s bag and slung it over his shoulder while Roy worked on buttoning his shirt. It clung to him uncomfortably, but he caught Jason’s lingering glance at his chest, so it wasn’t too bad. They tugged on their socks and shoes, and they were off.
Jason immediately set off in a fast jog, saying something about moving fast would dry them quicker. Roy easily caught up, and soon enough, they were having a full-blown race. It was safe to say that Lian’s teacher was very confused to see two grown men running full speed towards the school, but she knew Roy.
“Mister Harper,” the teacher addressed him, looking a little irritated.
Roy skidded to a stop in front of her, Jason right behind him. “Hi, Mrs. Ling.”
She cast an uncomfortable look at Jason, who was still hovering right behind Roy’s shoulder. Luckily, Lian spoke up before Roy could be scolded for inappropriate behavior.
“It’s doll guy!” Lian cheered, and Roy stepped to the side so she could great Jason. He knelt down to talk to her.
“I’m Jason,” he said. “I used to babysit you when you were still in diapers.”
Lian’s eyes widened as she connected the dots in her head. She looked up at Roy and he nodded before placing a finger over his lips so she wouldn’t say anything. She grinned and turned back to Jason. “Cha told me lots of stories about you,”
At the sound of a throat clearing, Roy turned to Mrs. Ling again. “Roy,” she said quietly. “You usually look at least a little dignified when you show up here,”
“This is my nicest shirt,” Roy tried.
“It’s soaking wet,” Mrs. Ling sighed. “I don’t want other parents to complain to me because their children saw a drenched man running at the school. Please try to dress better in the future.”
“Yes ma’am,” Roy muttered dejectedly as Mrs. Ling walked back into the school building. He looked back at Lian and Jason, who would both watching him, Lian sadly and Jason guiltily.
“Guess that’s my bad, huh?” Jason asked, then cupped his hand around his mouth and whispered to Lian, “I pushed your dad into the pond.”
Lian broke into a fit of giggles, then held her hand around her mouth like Jason. “But you’re wet too, Jayjay.”
“Well, he might’ve pushed me first,” Jason admitted with a wide grin. “I was just getting vengeance.”
“Like Batman,” Lian said.
“Nu-uh,” Roy interrupted, picking up Lian. “We’re Team Superman in this household. Don’t taint her with your Dark Knight ideology!”
Lian yelled in agreement and maneuvered so she was on Roy’s back. “Yeah, Jayjay! We’re a Superman family so Uncle Dickie, Wally, Garth, and Auntie Donna don’t get jealous!”
“You know what?” Jason said standing, “I think I’m more of a Superman fan too. He never grounded me.”
Lian stared at Jason in interest. “Cha never told me about you getting grounded,”
“Alright!” Roy interrupted. “We aren’t going to practice today since you have that trip tomorrow, so what do you want for dinner?”
“Is Jayjay staying to eat?” Lian asked, climbing up higher so she sat on Roy’s shoulders.
“Why don’t you ask him,”
Both Harpers focused their attention on Jason. “I could. If you don’t mind having me.”
Roy grinned. “Then he’s staying. So, what do you want, sweetheart?” Roy asked and began walking home, motioning for Jason to follow.
Lian tapped on Roy’s head while she thought. Then, smacked her hand against his head when she thought of an answer, causing Roy to let out a quiet “ow!” and Jason to snicker behind his hand. “Chili!” Lian shouted.
“Chili, huh? Like Ollie’s?” Roy clarified.
“Exactly like Grandpa Ollie’s,” Lian said, a hint of deviousness in her voice.
“Should I be worried?” Asked Jason, speeding up slightly to walk next to Roy instead of behind him.
“Do you want to hear about the book I’m reading, Jayjay?” Lian asked, changing the subject.
“I’d love to,” Jason said, and Roy knew that dinner was going to be hilarious.
During the whole walk home, Lian told Jason about the book she was reading, the same one she had told Roy about. He could feel her shifting around as she animatedly talked about the heist the characters went on. Roy had heard it all before, but it was still heartwarming to hear Lian so passionate about something. It was contagious, Roy felt himself smiling when Lian’s tangent went on to talk about her favorite character. Then, she gasped.
“Jayjay! You’re like her best friend! She came back from the dead too!” Lian whispered excitedly. “How did you do that, anyway? Are you magic?”
Roy adjusted his stance as he walked so that Lian didn’t fall off when she leaned closer to Jason.
Jason let out a huff of air, like an almost laugh. “I don’t really know. I just woke up. I don’t like talking about it too much though, okay?”
“Oh, okay,” Lian said. “It’s still cool though. Uncle Dickie, and Uncle Wally, and Aunt Donna, and grandpa have all came back from the dead too. Cha doesn’t like telling me about that though.”
“That’s because you’re nine, Lian. You shouldn’t be thinking about death.” Roy explained.
Reaching an arm up to ruffle Lian’s hair, Jason added, “I agree with your dad, kiddo. Just ‘cause some people come back doesn’t mean everyone will, and it’s a bummer to think about. Live in the moment instead. It’s more fun that way.”
Curious, Lian asked, “How do I do that?”
“Well,” Jason said, taking Lian from Roy’s shoulders and moving her onto his own. Thankful, Roy mouthed a thanks to him. “What do you want to do? Right now, at this very moment?”
Lian hummed for a second, patting Jason’s head before catching sight of his white streak and messing with it. “I really want to eat chili and watch movies together,” she answered.
“Then we do that!” Jason said cheerily. “What do you say, Roy? Movie night?”
Roy turned to Jason and Lian and felt his heart grow. Never did Roy ever imagine a sight like this, both Lian and Jason gazing at him expectantly with oddly similar smiles on their faces. “No arguments from me,” He said, and if his tone was a little softer than normal, well, at least it wasn’t as obvious as fond look in Jason’s eyes as his smile grew.