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Familiar

Chapter Text

The superhero stuff? That was going really, really slow. After Jade left Lian with Roy, he decided to settle back down in Star City. He thought that he’d be able to keep being Arsenal- or Red Arrow, that was his name now- while raising Lian, but turns out team Arrow had it more than handled. He just disliked how slow things were, someone always on the scene before Roy even got wind of the trouble going down. He never got a chance to feel that kick of adrenaline that beating baddies gave him. Then again, not having to kick ass every night meant more movie nights in pillow forts. Every time someone called to let Roy know things were handled, he couldn’t help but smile. The superhero stuff was going really slow, but Roy wasn't complaining. 

The only bad thing about Star City was that there was a fair amount of crime, not as much as some places, but still enough to require a team of vigilantes. Luckily for Roy, he was a member of said team, and said team was also his family. Dubbed “Team Arrow,” they were lead by none other than Oliver Queen, also known as “dad” by Roy.

See, Roy grew up on a Native reserve with his biological father. One night, there was a fire, and his dad lost his life trying to save people. Roy was upset for a long time, cursing his dad for leaving him, but with time came understanding. The Navajos taught him that his father was a hero. Roy admired that and learnt to accept it. Brave Bow, the chief and Roy’s guardian at the time, also taught him how to wield a bow and arrow, which, when it was finally time for Roy to leave the tribe, benefitted him greatly. Green Arrow needed a sidekick, and Roy was eligible. Since then, Oliver had been Roy’s legal father. He was flown away from the reserve in a private jet, he could still remember how jarring that was, all the way to Star City, where he donned a red suit and received the name “Speedy.”

Roy loved being Speedy. It was everything for him. Going out and fighting crime all night then spending all day coming up with new ideas for trick arrows, gizmos, and gadgets, that was the life! He was helping people, like his fathers, all while unleashing that inner tech-god he discovered he had. For most of his adolescence, Roy felt useful, like he was making and impact and improving the world.

But then Roy ended up in the wrong crowd. He did things he isn’t proud of. Yet, he can never find it in his heart to regret anything he’s ever done, because all of it has lead to this. Every mistake and every victory, every slip up and every success, they all came together and now he has Lian. Roy can honestly say that he regrets nothing.

Now, he finds himself in the supermarket, buying just enough groceries to get his little family through the week. Oliver might pay the rent for Roy, but he tries to never do more than that. On some level, Roy is thankful for it. However, he's in his late twenties, and knows that he should be able to provide for two by now. Except, his story isn’t one of good choices, it’s one of redemptions. Things aren’t easy, but he’s making it.

 Oliver, on some level, believes that Roy can sustain enough income on his own to feed his child- which he can! But, without the help from his legal parents, there’s no doubt that he and Lian would be living in the slums rather than right above the lower class. He guesses that’s what happens when your inventive genius is limited to working as a mechanic.

If he could go without the help from Queen Consolidations, Roy would. He’d give anything to be the perfect dad for Lian. All he wants is for her to grow up in a good home without struggling. Sure, Roy technically lived in wealth in his younger years, better than what they have now, and that made him ignorant. He needs his daughter to be smart, but not forced to be smart by the harsh realities of the world. Lian deserved to live a happy life.

Which is exactly why is broke him to tell her no. It didn’t matter what it was for, Roy hated it. 

“Lian, I’m sorry, but we don’t have enough for that. You know they over price all the superhero stuff. I’m sorry.” The heat of embarrassment rushed up the back of Roy’s neck as he said the words. He didn’t know why he felt so ashamed of not having money. For some reason it was just humiliating to admit to not being able to provide for his daughter everything she wanted. Maybe it was because not giving her the world made him feel like the biggest asshole ever? He was sure people could see that easily.

Said toy was an old Raggedy Ann styled Robin doll that Lian held clutched to her chest. It’s red shirt only slightly more faded than Lian’s own darker one. It looked like it was styled off of Dick’s old costume based on the green shorts and neat hair. He didn’t know where she found the doll, but there was no way something that old was less than twenty dollars. That twenty dollars could pay for a week of school lunches, good school lunches, and no matter how much Lian wanted the doll, Roy knew that eating was more important. He wasn’t that dumb.

Lian stared up at him with wide eyes, and Roy felt panic as they started to welt up with tears. He knew the tears were fake, but that didn’t matter, it still broke his heart to see. He’d have to ask the Titans which one of them taught her this trick because he felt destroyed seeing it. His money was on Donna or Wally.

“But, cha!” Lian cried, “It’s an older Robin doll, so it’ll be worth more in a few years! Please? I don’t have this one yet! It’s like an antique!” 

“Lian..” he said softly. Trying to think of a way out of this quickly. He was second in line at the checkout, luckily with no one else behind him, but he caught the slight tilt of the head that the man in front of them had. He was listening in on the conversation, probably judging Roy’s parenting. Roy didn’t feel like he had any choice but to give in. Even Elaine, the sweet old lady running the cash register, looked at him with pity.

Before he could accept defeat at the hands of his nine-year-old daughter, the man in front of them spoke. “I’ll pay for it,”

“You don’t have to--” Roy tried before he could even really stop himself. He looked up at the man from his squatted position in front of his daughter. The guy had on an off brown jacket, like a tan color and the sleeves were split with an unzipped zipper that revealed a red lining. He had dark green cargo pants. He didn’t look like the kind to have cash, in fact he looked like the kind that would steal, with his dark aviators and matching gloves. He didn’t exactly scream “trustworthy.”

“It’s fine,” the stranger interrupted him. “Kids need heroes to look up to, right? I have more than enough for it.”

Roy couldn’t argue with that. It was just a doll, right? There wasn’t any way accepting a favor from a stranger could come back to bite him in the ass. 

“Only if you’re sure,” He said quietly from his spot crouched in front of Lian. He could identify a Gothamite accent anywhere, and the man in front of him had a fairly thick one. That only increased Roy’s distrust. He hastily internally cursed himself for being so judgmental.

“Positive,” the stranger confirmed while Lian walked closer with the toy outstretched. 

As Lian asked the man about superheroes, Roy couldn’t help but shake the feeling that this guy was familiar somehow. It could’ve just been the accent, Roy does know a fairly large group of bat-obsessed people residing in the grimy city. However, none of those vigilanties had a jarring white streak of hair center point in their bangs. Roy figured that’d be a dead giveaway if he actually knew the guy.

“Do you like superheroes, ngai?” Lian asked as a glove-clad hand took the Robin doll from her. Gloves were weird for civilians, but weird didn’t always mean bad. Still, Roy didn’t let his guard down completely. What if the guy was a mugger or a human trafficker? 

The man smiled, and, okay, yeah, it was friendly looking, but-- 

Maybe Roy just wasn’t used to the kindness of strangers.

“Vâng,” said the man. Which freaked Roy out a little because it’s not everyday that someone in Star City speaks Vietmanese. Not unless they wear a mask. “The Teen Titans especially.” 

“Really?” Lian asked excitedly, and Roy slowly rose from his squatted position. “Who’s your favorite? Mine’s Robin and Starfire! More Starfire though.”

Roy wondered which Robin his daughter was referring to. She didn’t know Dick when he was Batman’s sidekick. (Thankfully because he was a menace back then.) But that was his first assumption when she also mentioned Starfire. Then again, Kori hung around the Teen Titans long after everyone else left. So maybe Lian was talking about Tim. They’d only met a few times, but he was always kind to her, even going as far as to let her try coffee. Which was a disaster, but Roy looked back on that memory fondly.

Lian could have even meant Stephanie. It’d make sense since Lian did usually prefer the female heroes. Always talking about Grannie Dinah, which the older woman hated to be called, and Aunt Babs and Aunt Kori. Roy didn’t know Steph as well as he’d known the other Robins, therefore Lian didn’t know her that well either. He supposed you didn’t need to personally know a person to idolize them though. Roy himself didn’t know Superman very well, but still got nerve induced hiccups whenever the other man even looked in his direction.

There was also Damian, he was around Lian’s age, so it could’ve been him. Roy found the kid a little scary though, so a small part of him really hoped that wasn’t who she meant.

Of course, there was one more Robin. Lian had met Jason when she was still a baby. The teenage punk loved babysitting, it was pretty ironic actually. Jason had been gone a long time though, the only reason Lian knew anything about him was from the stories Roy and the Titans would tell. He doubted that’s who she meant, so his best guess was Dick.

“Well, you might be a little too young to know who he is, he’s been off the radar for a while, but I’ve always had a soft spot for Speedy.” The stranger said smoothly. Roy swore he saw the man’s eyes flick towards him behind the confines of his sunglasses. Did he know who Roy was? 

Even if this guy was really weird , Roy felt his own joy spark up when Lian happily shouted that she knew who Speedy was. Then, his smile grew when she admitted to wanting to be just like him some day. He was a pretty cool dad, huh?

“That so?” The man asked, kneeling down to be eye level with Lian. “I think you could pull it off. You have an archer’s eyes.” 

The stranger was pretty good with kids, Roy admitted. Normally, that’d make him ecstatic. He loved when people could talk to his daughter since none of his friends had kids of their own. Lian’s only social interactions came from school and the occasional super baby that was born. Super babies usually came with superpowers though, which was something very lacking in Roy’s bloodline. Roy knew that made Lian feel left out, even if she never said so.

He couldn’t shake the odd feeling this guy gave him though. How could someone seem so familiar, yet not give off any indication of who they are. Roy wasn’t terrible when it came to faces, so why was it hard to place the man in front of him? 

He had a confident air around him, almost like arrogance. Although he acted in a kind manner, he still had this vibe that yelled “danger!” Roy wasn’t sure if he just found the guy badass, or if his gut was trying to tell him something important.

Elaine handed the doll off to Lian while the man stuck his card in the chip reader before punching in a few numbers. After it beeped, he ruffled Lian’s hair and told her to enjoy the toy. Lian thanked both Elaine and the stranger before he said he had to get going.

“See you around, Arrow Head!” He called, shooting Roy a pair of finger guns while walking backwards. His sunglasses even slipped partway down his nose to reveal he was winking. Wait-- was he flirting?  

As the man walked backwards, he bumped his hip against the side of a shelf with a loud squeak. Roy couldn’t help but snicker as the stranger turned around embarrassed and muttering about how dumb the nickname he gave was. Roy realized that, yeah, “Arrow Head” was a weird thing to call someone you didn’t know. Especially if they’re secretly an arrow themed vigilante, who’s name even has “arrow” in it.

Lian climbed onto Roy’s back while Elaine scanned their groceries. He glanced over to where the man disappeared out the front door.

“He kinda reminded me of Uncle Dickie,” Lian commented.

Roy thought for a moment, about the confident smile the man had paired with his accent. That was definitely like Dick, but this man’s demeanor seemed a bit more closed off. It was almost like a translucent dark curtain was drawn around him, but still holding some sort of childishness. 

“He kinda reminded me of someone too,” Roy said, and maybe it was hopeful wishing, but Dick wasn’t the Robin he was thinking of.

Chapter Text

The next time Roy saw the stranger was when he was on one of his morning runs before work. Mia hadn’t shown up to babysit yet, so he took Lian with him. He wasn’t running very fast, more like a light jog, so they decided to tie a long ribbon around Roy’s waist so that Lian could hold onto it while wearing her skates. It may have looked funny to the outside eye, but they were having fun, so it didn’t really matter what other people thought.

Roy tried to run every morning, and that included weekends when he had work. Or weekdays when he had work. Not holidays, though, he was hellbent on spending all of those with Lian no matter what. 

Usually, if he was working on a weekend, he’d leave without waking Lian, and then bring her home some sort of treat as a surprise. Since Mia was running late, their normal schedule was going a little differently. Lian was very confused when Roy had awoken her. So confused, that she started getting ready for school. Roy had watched her fumble around looking for her school stuff, before he started laughing. That was a clear indicator that something was up. 

He made it up to her by cooking a quick breakfast and letting her get away with not brushing her hair before leaving. It wasn’t like anyone could see the knots under her Wonder Woman helmet anyways. 

They had just gotten to one mile when Lian yelled out, “Cha! Look!” 

Roy slowed down, making sure to stop Lian before she bumped into him, and looked in the direction she was pointing. Across the street was the stranger, wearing the same sunglasses that he’d been wearing in the supermarket. His jacket was different though, from the distance Roy was at, it looked like a black blazer. Definitely a good look, not that Roy was, like, looking.  

The stranger was sitting on a bench with a cup of what Roy assumed was coffee. He had a newspaper folded in half in his other hand. His hair looked messier than the last time Roy had seen him, as if he had left his home before he had a chance to brush it. Speaking of homes, it was odd that Roy was seeing him twice in the same week despite never seeing him before. Maybe he moved here? 

“Can we go talk to him?” Lian asked.

Roy furrowed his eyebrows with a tight frown. “I don’t know, Lian. Mia will probably be at the apartment any time now.” He looked down at his daughter, with a small smile. “Maybe another time, alright?” 

Lian didn’t seem satisfied, but she nodded anyways. Roy turned in the direction towards their apartment, and began pulling Lian along. Out the corner of his eye, he noticed the stranger lift his head in their direction. Roy would have to warn Mia to keep an eye out for suspicious people.

Speaking of suspicious people, not even an hour later, Roy was on the phone with Bruce Wayne. Normally, the two wouldn’t even talk to each other, usually using Dick or Oliver as a mediator, which is why Roy hastily picked up the phone when Batman’s number lit up his screen, panicked that something happened to one of them.

“I’d get Oliver to call you, but he’d out investigating it right now.”

“I understand that, sir.” Roy said, the formality feeling foriegn on his tongue. “But I’m not sure what this has to do with me. I don’t do strenuous stuff like that as often. I mean, a multi-time offender? Drugs and guns? I’m trying to lay low right now. Raising Lian is my top priority.” 

“I’m telling you because,” Bruce’s voice was a deep rumble that Roy could feel in his bones. No wonder he was more of a Superman fan. Bruce was just downright scary. He had no idea why all his kids were so energetic all the time. Roy was exhausted and he’d only been talking to the man for two minutes. “The perpetrator has been seen in cities all across the country. That’s including here in Gotham, Keystone, even in San Francisco, all places tied to superheroes, including the Outsiders and Titans. He hasn’t caused any harm to innocents, yet. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be cautious though.

“All he seems to be doing is turning what should be simple drug busts into very large medical bills. These people he’s hurting may be criminals and junkies, apologies if that offends you, but he’s injuring them to the brink of death. Some of them with records of other crimes have even been brutally killed. I know what it’s like to be a hero and have a child, Roy. That’s why I’m warning you.” 

Taken aback, Roy stuttered, “I..thank you, Bruce. I’ll keep a look out and let Mia know. But, don’t take this as insult, but I’ve been in the state of mind these people are in, and sometimes the only way to stop is to be right on the verge of dying. Not that that will work for everyone, but for some of them, it’s like a second chance.”

Roy fidgeted with the wrench in his free hand, casting longing glances to the car he’d love to be fixing right now, rather than be worrying about some dick with a grudge against drug addicts. 

“That’s not his choice to make. Rehabilitation is a personal journey, I would expect you of all people to know that.” Bruce all but snapped into the receiver. Roy physically flinched away, guilt clawing away at his gut. “And he’s maiming people, his words not mine.”

“Wait, you’ve spoken to him?” 

“That’s none of your concern,”

“Sorry,” He quickly said. “Sorry. Anything else I should know?”

“He goes by Red Hood ,” spat Bruce. “That’s all.”

Roy sighed. There was something else Bruce wasn’t saying. Probably about that name, Roy had a hunch that it was important somehow. He’d have to call Dick or Tim later to get more information. 

He hid is annoyance with a fake laugh. “Red Hood? Kinda sounds like he’s copying me. Too bad I don’t wear an actual hood, then maybe I could’ve got him through copyright infringement. Hey, you think me and him could team up? Red and Red?” He joked. 

“Goodbye, Roy. Take care of Lian.” Bruce said, then hung up.

He watched the screen change to show his wallpaper. It was a picture of him and Lian at the waterpark. He smiled at it, before locking the phone. Roy slowly dropped his phone by his side where he was slumped on the floor. He leaned his head back against the wall and allowed his eyes to fall closed. Just three days ago he was mulling over how slow the hero gig was, and now that something finally came up, he couldn’t help but be annoyed as hell.

He had movie nights and tea parties to attend, he couldn’t be out trying to catch this overly eager probation officer wanna be. As much as he hated to admit it, he probably shouldn’t be around all those drugs either. Not that he thinks he’d fall into a relapse, but because it might trigger stuff in him that he’d rather keep buried six feet under.

Luckily, he had the Arrows. He opened his eyes and pulled up Mia’s number. She picked up after the second ring.

“Hey, Roy! What’s up?” She asked cheerily. “Try and make it quick, Lian and I are in the middle of a shoot out.”

“They better not be real arrows. Only I get to teach my daughter archery.” He warned jokingly. Then in a more serious tone, “Apparently there’s a new guy that could be coming to Star. He’s going by Red Hood , so look out for any suspicious stuff.”

“Okay, first off,” Mia started. “ Red Hood? You guys partners or something?”

“I know right! I said something like that to The Bat and he just hung up on me.” Roy complained.

“Sounds about right,” Mia laughed. “Secondly, why isn’t Ollie the one telling me this, and why was it Batman that had to contact you?”

“Bats just said that Oliver is off doing investigative stuff right now. Probably with Dinah. I’m sure he’ll have you on the case soon enough. All I know so far is that the guy targets drugs and guns. Typical, mob stuff.”

“Thanks for letting me know, Roy.” said Mia. “And bring us back some dinner when you come home? I’ll pay you back.”

“Sure thing, Speedy. And keep your money or I’ll kick your ass.”

“Yessir!”

With their final goodbyes, Roy ended the call.

The rest of the day continued on at a snail’s pace. The car currently parked in Roy’s shop, yes his shop , needed its breaks fixed. It wasn’t difficult, just time consuming. Roy had the car completely fixed up before his lunch break around one.

He changed out of his dark green, grease covered jumpsuit, into a clean t-shirt and jeans. With a glance in the mirror, he pulled on his battered trucker cap and walked to town. Sometimes, Roy would pack a lunch for himself when he went to work, but other days he rathered eating in town, especially at this little burger joint right down the street from his shop. 

The owner of the restaurant was an older man Roy had met back in AA, Marcus. They had bonded over being fathers and, well, alcoholics. Although, at the time Roy wasn’t drinking, he was volunteering. He still did that every now and then when he had time, and if any of the local organizations had large events, he made time.

“Roy!” Marcus called from behind the counter. “The usual?” 

Roy gave an easy smile and took a seat at one of the stools at the bar. “The usual,” he confirmed. “Thanks,” 

Marcus nodded to him before going to the sink to wash his hands. Roy looked around the restaurant. It wasn’t very big, or fancy. The walls had a hardwood decor that contrasted against the stone floor. Normally, having just a plain gray floor would seem lazy, but it added to the naturistic atmosphere of the room. In the corners there were fake trees with broad, green leaves, and fairy lights hung in a zig-zag pattern across the ceiling.

The food also matched the decor. The menu consisted of things that people usually made whilst camping, like hamburgers, hotdogs, and s’mores. The latter being Lian’s favorite. He tried not to bring her here too much though, due to the bar that Roy was currently sitting at. 

When Roy first met Marcus, he thought it strange that the man owned a bar, but was attending AA. Marcus had explained how his wife passing away threw him into a spiral, and the only thing motivating him to get things together was his son and restaurant. 

He ended up keeping the bar, as a reminder of sorts. Roy could appreciate that sentiment. He still didn’t want Lian to be around alcohol too much, no matter how admirable Marcus’s journey was. 

Roy was snapped out of his thoughts when a burger and a can of soda was placed in front of him. He handed Marcus a couple of bills, more than what the food cost, with a smile. “Thanks again. Keep the change.”

Marcus scrowled. “You ought to stop being so kind, boy. You could use every bit you can get.”

“But I like being nice!” Roy defended.

Marcus just shook his head with a laugh, turning to put the money away. “Let me know before you go. I’ll make some s’mores real quick for your girl.”

Roy nodded and began eating. His eyes stayed mostly glued to the television above all the drinks. It was silenced, which bothered Roy a bit because the captions took up most of the small screen. And they were going to slow, he hated when that happened. The news was on though, so Roy kept an eye out for anything about the Red Hood. 

Suddenly, the captions disappeared and the volume turned up. Roy didn’t know how long he had been watching, but his burger was gone and the anchor was talking about a rise in weapons dealing. Roy heard a few grumbles from the normal patrons, and looked around for who messed with the remote. As many times as he’d been there, Roy had never heard the T.V. unmuted, despite Marcus saying it was fine for people to adjust it how they pleased.

Roy’s eyes landed on a familiar glove-clad hand right down the bar from himself. The same man from the store sat two seats down. He had his own burger placed in front of him, but with a glass of something honey colored instead of a soda can. 

He pushed up his sunglasses onto his head as he handed a card to Marcus. As the old man walked away, the stranger’s eyes flicked to Roy, and he felt his breath hitch in his throat. A hundred different thoughts swirled around in Roy’s head as their gazes caught, the most prominent one being Jason .

Roy wasn’t stupid, he knew that Jason was long gone. Six feet under, never to return again. It hurt to admit, but that feisty little kid was dead. Yet, those eyes looked just like Jason’s. Except a lot more haunted, and a lot more angry. All that emotion was hidden behind a thin layer of nervousness. A look Jason used to wear a lot. 

Way back during Jason’s first team up with the Teen Titans, he had almost the exact same look. Roy knew how scary it was to suddenly be working with a lot of older people, he had team ups with the League before and they still scare him, so Roy kinda took Jason under his wing. Pun intended.

Dick had been extremely thankful for it, wanting to do it himself, but too busy with bigger things like actually leading the team. Roy didn’t mind though, Jason was a punk, sure, but he was funny too, and real smart. Roy could recall a few times when the kid thought up some ingenious plans, but was too nervous to voice them. Instead, he’d tell them to Roy, and Roy would relay them to everyone else. The way Jason’s eyes lit up whenever Dick complimented his strategic thinking still made Roy smile.

“Hey,” the man said, an amused look on his face. His eyes seemed to soften when he spoke. Roy much prefered that look. “I don’t think I actually introduced myself. I’m Peter.”

If, by any chance, this was actually Jason, it was pretty damn stupid of him to use his middle name as an alias. Then again, Jason would probably find it hilarious.

“Peter, huh? I’m Roy.” He leaned towards the man to shake the hand offered to him, gloves now gone. Roy didn’t miss the tiny scars on the man’s fingertips. Peter’s muscles flexed under his jacket, and his grip was firm. He must’ve worked out, not that Roy was paying attention to that. He was definitely still focusing on the scars. Yep.

“You live around here, Roy?” Peter asked when they pulled apart. 

“Do you?” Roy counted with a little more aggression than intended. In his defense, he was paranoid about people knowing something personal like that. That paranoia was heightened due to, well, being a superhero and a father. His whole world was at home, so excuse him for being a little unsettled by the question.

“Sorry. Didn’t mean to be weird. I’m kinda bad at casual conversation.” Peter admitted, taking a swig of his drink.

Roy had always liked Jason, despite his wild attitude. Although brash and little rude on the field, the kid was amazing. Like a firework, he was aggressive, loud, explosive at times even, but bright as hell. When Roy talked to him about school, he sometimes had trouble keeping up with the conversation. That always made his ego hurt, being in his twenties and having a teenager explain what opposite reciprocal and Pythagorean theorem meant.  

The man sitting two seats down really reminded Roy of Jason. What was the coincidence that they both shared the name Peter? That they were both from Gotham?

Okay, that sounds a little paranoid, but damn, what doesn't these days? Roy guessed that there was a fair chance of those two things happening, but that didn’t excuse the weird scars and hair or speaking Vietmanese. Or the eyes, yes Roy was still hung up on his eyes.

“What kind of conversations do you normally have?” Roy asked curiously, wanting to know more about this familiar stranger.

Peter answered without hesitation. “Interrogations,” then he stuttered out in a panicked, “I was in the military for a while. God, that must’ve sounded bad. Sorry.”  

Roy just laughed in kind. “It’s fine. Thanks for your service, Pete.” He held up his can for a toast, and Peter lifted his own drink. They toasted, and Roy sipped his soda while Peter drowned the rest of his drink. 

“You’re new to town, aren’t you?” Roy finally asked, placing his can down.

Peter swallowed the last bite of his food before turning to Roy again. “Yeah. I visited here some when I was a kid. Don’t know how long I’m staying now.”

“You’re a drifter?”

“I usually say traveller. It sounds less rugged and more eccentric.” 

“I dunno, man. You look way more rugged. I guess I could see you as eccentric, but in the secret psychopath way.” Roy joked. Luckily, Peter took it well because he started laughing. Even his laugh reminded Roy of Jason, just deeper.

“Rugged and crazy? You’re starting to sound like my brothers.” Peter said from behind the hand trying to muffle his laughs.

Brothers too? Like, bat brothers? That familiarity, the feeling from a few days ago, it was there again, and the comparisons were there . Roy wasn’t a detective, not by a long shot, but hell, was he not suppose to trust his own hunches? 

He hadn’t forgotten about the “Arrow Head” comment either. Why would he call Roy that if he didn’t know him? Casual conversation his ass, Peter was just hiding something! This guy had some sort of connection to Speedy- to superheroes-  and he was trying to hide it! Unluckily for him, Roy was onto his facade, all thanks to his flirting yesterday.

Flirting. Roy had let that completely slip his mind. Why would this guy flirt with him, and lead him on? Unless, he wanted Roy to figure out who he was? That was needlessly dramatic. Something Jason was known to be. But, what were the actual chances that Jason was back?

“Oh?” Roy propped his chin on the palm of his hand and stared at Peter in interest. Genuine interest. He wanted to know more. That urge could possibly be attributed to his lack of crime fighting recently or the fact that he may have just come up with a conspiracy about his dead friend being alive. Talk about desperate. “Is that good or bad?” 

“Bad! Horrible. You’d like them.” Smirked Peter, and- wow okay, Roy wasn’t ready for that. If this guy did end up being clean, at least he was hot. Roy did kinda have a thing for brunettes.

“What makes you think I’d like them? You don’t even know me.” 

“Well,” Peter shifted in his seat. “You seem like a good guy, and they’re good guys.”

Smiling softly, Roy asked, “What about you? Are you a good guy?” 

Peter stared down at his empty glass, gloved hand slowly spinning it around. “Some days. But, not most days.”

 Peter looked conflicted and pained. It reminded Roy a little of himself years ago. This guy didn’t seem that old, roughly his early twenties. He should be in the prime of his life, making his place in the world and becoming someone. Not sitting here and brooding over God knows what.

“Hey, Peter?” Roy asked to get his attention. Teal eyes turned to him. “I don’t think you’re all that bad.”

“You don’t even know me.” He mocked with a small smile.

“Then let’s get to know each other,” Roy said before he could think. Well, at least this way he could keep tabs on the guy.

“What?” Peter asked, all sadness fading away into confusion.

“You got a phone?”

Peter nodded and handed over a burner phone. Roy took it in stride, just another weird thing to add to the list of oddities surrowing Peter. He added his number into Peter’s phone and handed it back. 

“Call me,” he said simply. Then called to Marcus that he was going. “Gotta get back to work.”

He stood and walked over to the register, grabbing the bag of s’mores Marcus held out with a thanks. Stopping at the door, Roy looked over his shoulder at Peter. Risking it all with a wink, he said, “See you around, Jaybird.” 

Chapter Text

For over a week, Roy heard absolutely nothing from “Peter.” His whole walk home from Marcus’s, he was mulling over the possible ways Jason could be alive. Sure, Roy was only fifty-six percent sure Peter was Jason, but that was on coincidence alone.

A funny thing about the hero business is that people die and come back all the time. Whether that’s from faking their death, some form of magic, or just some higher power manipulating life. He could list off at least ten people right off the top of his head that have cheated death, most of them being his friends and family. 

There was also the fact that Jason was a bat. If Roy knew anything about Bruce Wayne and his parade of children, it was that they knew how to hide. When he lived in Titans Tower, he’d constantly get snuck up on by Dick, it wasn’t even on purpose most of the time. Batman just trained his kids to always be stealthy. 

Roy didn’t consider himself the smartest exactly, not when it came to practical things or detective work. He trusted his gut though, so even if he wasn’t totally sure Peter and Jason were one in the same, he felt like they were, and that had to count for something.

Speaking of detectives, Roy wondered why none of the Dick proclaimed “Bat-Fam” had called him about Jason’s return. Then again, he doubted he’d even be considered as eligible for that information. He was friends with Jason way back when, but he wasn’t family. Those Gothamites loved their privacy almost as much as they loved adding “bat” to the name of things.

All of this had been bouncing back and forth in his brain like a DVD screensaver for the first week. However, after not hearing anything from anyone, Roy let it slip out of his mind. He had other things to worry about, such as Lian currently practicing archery. 

At first, Roy was a little worried about letting Lian learn how to shoot, but the kid had a strong rebut that went something like: I wanna be just like you, Cha! 

He couldn’t just turn down his biggest fan like that.

So, with much begging, Oliver eventually allowed Roy to borrow Team Arrow’s practice range whenever need be. Unsurprisingly, Lian was a natural. She wasn’t quite making bullseye each time she shot, but after a few weeks, she always hit the target. His daughter was going to be so badass when she was older, he had no doubt about it.

Right now though, Lian was in a rut. Her bottom lip was quivering dangerously, so Roy carefully pried the small bow from her hands. He set it aside and knelt in front of her.

“Lian, honey? What’s wrong?” He asked. She looked more frustrated than anything, her pout resembling her mother’s.

“I can’t do it!” She yelled, and Roy frowned. “I can’t hit the bullseye like you!”

He held his daughter’s trembling fists. “Hey, hey. Lian, yes you can. You just need to practice. I wasn’t perfect when I first started archery. How about we go take that anger out and talk through this?” He offered.

Lian nodded. The two cleaned up the range, placing everything back where they found it, and made their way to the local park.

The park was a decent size. The playground was around average, with slides and a swing set. It was filled with kids since it was a Tuesday afternoon. School had let out a few hours ago, so by this time all the kids were done with homework and taking full advantage of the remaining hours of sunlight. 

They weren’t there for the other kids though, nor the playground. Roy had always found that going for a walk or run helped him clear his mind when he was frustrated with something. When he use to invent for Oliver, he’d throw tantrums before storming off, something he’s embarrassed about. One of the few good pieces of advice Oliver gave him was how to get over that frustration. 

At first, they started with meditation, but Roy was too fidgety. His brain didn’t allow him to sit still and not do anything. Then they tried sparring. That usually ended with Roy getting pissed about losing. Eventually, they just started walking. Sometimes Roy would bring some sort of trinket to mess with while he walked and Oliver would follow along beside him in silence. He would just quietly watch while Roy cooled down, giving his son the space that every moody teenager needs. Soon enough, it became a habit to go for a walk when he was bothered.  

He tried the meditation thing with Lian, but like her father, she couldn’t sit still. He obviously didn’t try the sparring. So, that left him with the walks. With Lian being so young, she was easily entranced with every bird and squirrel they saw. Every time without fail, about ten minutes into their walk, Lian would forget what she was upset about and a large smile would grace her face.

Thanks to Lian’s creative imagination, sometimes she’d start telling stories during their treks. Squirrels would become goblins and birds were soon turned into dragons. Other times, Lian would put on a (very bad) fake Australian accent and pretend she was voicing a nature documentary. No matter how the walks went, Roy was entertained.

Their walks were always on the same trail. It went around the outskirts of the park, the end of it opened up downtown, towards their apartment. Luckily for them both, there was an ice cream stand situated right near the exit. Roy liked to use the idea of ice cream as incentive to get Lian to talk through her frustrations.

Sometimes Lian would get tired though, the trail, being right under a mile long, tended to wear her out. So, every now and then, she’d ask Roy to carry her part way. He never minded, eagerly squatting down so Lian could climb onto his back. This time was just like that.

“Giddy up!” Lian squealed, tugging Roy’s hair like horse reins. He laughed then neighed like a horse before galloping down the trail. A few joggers looked at him strangely, while his fellow parents smiled with small laughs. Then their faces fell when their kids pointed at Roy and started begging to be carried the same way. Roy always laughed right back.

When they were nearing the end of the trail, Lian asked if they could get ice cream like Roy anticipated. He said yes of course, and bought Lian some chocolate chip cookie dough, which gave Roy a toothache just by looking at it. He got plain chocolate, you couldn’t go wrong with that. 

Lian walked while eating her ice cream cone, her free hand clasped with Roy’s. It smelt like it might rain soon. That bummed Roy a bit, but hey, rain had to fall at some point. The wind blew past them, swaying their hair. Roy glanced down at Lian and his eyes widened. Her face was covered in ice cream. With a tired laugh, he finished off his cone before picking the girl up.

“Ready to talk?” He asked.

Lian’s face fell and she nodded solemnly. “How long until I’m as good as you, cha?” 

“Well,” Roy started, thinking back to what Oliver use to tell him. “That all depends on you. How much time you put into archery and how much passion you have for it. If it’s just a hobby, it might take longer. That’s why I’m so good at it. I’ve put a lot of time into it, and it’s a career for me.”

Pouting, Lian looked off to the side. “Do you,” She hesitated then started over. “Is it okay if I only do it as a hobby?” 

Shocked, Roy exclaimed, “Of course it is! Honey, you don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do. You don’t have to grow up and be the next Arrow, that’s your choice. And you definitely don’t have to make that choice right now.”

The sad look slowly faded from Lian’s eyes and she met Roy’s gaze again. “Can I still be like you even if I’m not a superhero?”

“Awh, baby. You’re stuck being like me no matter what life you end up living. You’re a Harper and nothing will change that.” Roy laughed.

With Lian smiling and reassured, their conversation shifted. Roy carried her into the apartment complex while she rambled about her day at school. This week her class was going to the zoo and they needed chaperones. Roy told Lian to bring a form home and he’d fill it out so they could go. Since he was his own boss, he didn’t need to call in to take off work or anything. He loved being self-employed.

Once in their apartment, Roy made a beeline to the bathroom to clean Lian up. She fought against him with an indignated shout of, “I’m not a baby! I can do it myself!”  

“Of course you aren’t, Lian. But you’re still my baby.” He smiled while wiping the last of the ice cream off her cheek. She just huffed and pouted at him. 

He would never tell Lian this, but sometimes when she said things like that, it made Roy question his parenting. Had he been babying Lian too much? Was she genuinely upset? Was he being too overbearing? She’d be a teenager in a few years, what would he do then? Usually, when he started doubting himself, he’d call Dinah and ask for advice. Dinah would then call him an idiot and say he was doing fine before muttering something about “men” with am exhausted sigh. Excluding the men comment, that was something Roy needed to hear every now and then, that he was doing fine.

“Cha?” Lian asked, interrupting Roy’s thoughts. “You look sad, what’s wrong?” 

Roy’s initial instinct was to say that nothing was bothering him, but Lian was getting older, so Roy needed to start consulting her too. If everything he did was for her, then shouldn’t she get some say? 

“Are you happy?” It was a simple question, yet a loaded one. He felt almost dirty asking his daughter such a thing, like it was cheating or as if he was putting too much pressure on her. Those thoughts were crushed by Lian’s answer.

“Duh,”

“Duh?” 

“Yeah, duh. Why wouldn’t I be? I have you and Mia, Uncle Connie, and Grandpa Ollie and Granny Dinah.”

“You don’t..want more?” Roy cautiously questioned.

“I want to live in a castle, but I think I’d get lonely in a place that big.” 

Roy let out a relieved laugh. “Me too. I like it here. It’s cozy.”

“And perfect for blanket forts!” Lian smiled widely. 

“And perfect for blanket forts,” Roy agreed. “How about I start you a bath and you get cleaned real quick so we can eat dinner while watching a movie?” 

Lian nodded eagerly and jumped off the sink. Roy flinched, ready to catch her, before stopping himself. Lian landed on both her feet, perfectly balanced. With a melancholy smile, he realized his little girl really wasn’t a baby anymore.

Roy started the bath then left the bathroom to get Lian’s pajamas. She had a couple of pairs, mostly superhero themed. He settled for grabbing her Flash ones that Wally got her last Christmas. Funnily enough, Dick had somehow gotten Nightwing pajamas the same year, both men presented their presents to Lian at the same time with no idea that the other had gifted her a similar thing. They’d always competed for who was the better uncle. Roy never told them that Lian’s favorite uncle was actually her Great Uncle Hal. 

Roy cracked the bathroom door and placed the clothes on the counter. “Everything alright?” He asked, from behind the door so Lian still had privacy. 

“Yep!” She called. “Can we order pizza for dinner?”

“You don’t want my cooking?” He teased.

Lian gagged. “No! You’ll make chili again and it’s always spicy like grandpa’s!”

“Okay, okay.” Laughed Roy. “I’ll order pepperoni, that good?”

With a confirmation from Lian, Roy softly closed the door and busied himself with ordering pizza. While he waited for it to be delivered, he dug through their movie collection. Roy didn’t have cable since he didn’t see the need for it. The apartment complex had wi-fi, but it was pretty crappy, so Roy didn’t stream things that often either. However, him and Lian had a fairly large movie collection. They collected them from yard sales, thrift stores, and even being gifted movies by some of his more tech savvy friends who insisted that DVDs were dying.

After choosing a movie he knew Lian liked, one of the many rom-coms he had gathered over the years, everyone had their guilty pleasures, he placed it in the DVD player and turned the TV on. Settling on the couch with a bottle of water, he watched the previews play out. 

A few minutes later, Lian scuffled out of the bathroom with a hairbrush. She sat in Roy’s lap, facing the TV, while he methodically brushed out the tangles upon her hair. Once it was all brushed out, he began braiding it. Right as he finished and tied the braid, there was a knock at the door.

Lian moved onto the couch while Roy walked to the door with the money he laid out for the pizza. Bracing one hand on the wall behind the door, the same place he kept a small crossbow just in case, he slowly pulled the door open.

He was greeted by a tired looking teenager with a pizzeria uniform on. “Pizza?” The teen asked.

Roy smiled and handed over the money, opening the door wider to take the food. “Sure,” he said. “Keep the change.” 

The kid replied with a grin and slurred thanks before sluggishly walking away. Roy watched them go for a moment before closing the door and bringing the pizza to the coffee table placed in front of the couch.

“No plate, no spill.” He told Lian.

“No plate, no spill.” She parroted while grabbing a slice of pizza.

Roy sat back against the couch again and grabbed the remote to start the movie. It must’ve finished the previews while he was paying for their food. Pressing play, he leaned back and glanced at Lian. Her eyes lit up as soon as the opening scene played out. Roy smiled to himself and turned his attention back to the movie. 

The movie wasn’t exactly anything special, full of clichés and predictable moments. It was nice. To know what comes next can prepare you for practically anything, it was stable. Roy doesn’t think he could live like that though. He likes having a routine, sure, but he wakes up every morning not sure what could happen. That’s exciting to him.

They watched the two leads dance around each other for over an hour after a chance encounter. When it neared the two hour mark, they finally admit their feelings for each other. The reason for this is through a heated argument after one of them reveals that they were actually a criminal. Roy guessed that realistic aspect of it was why he liked the movie. He could relate to the movie, except in his case he was revealed to be a hero working for the government. He also didn’t stumble around Jade as much as the main character in the movie did. 

Jade would probably say different though.

The sun was setting when the movie finished, giving Lian and Roy about an hour before she had to go to bed. As usual, they double checked for any homework before Roy allowed her to run off and read comics until bedtime.

Once the moon hung itself in the sky, Roy was tucking Lian in with a kiss to her forehead. “Do you want me to call anyone?” He asked her.

“I’ll be okay, cha. Go be a hero.” She assured him. “I got my secret panic room you built remember? If it makes you feel better, we can stay on a call all night.” 

“That would make me feel overwhelmingly better,” He said, picking up an earpiece from Lian’s bedside table and handing it to her. 

She placed the device in her ear and turned it on. Static crackled for a second in Roy’s own ear, his piece already being in, before it went quiet. Lian pressed the button on the communicator. “Can you hear me?” 

Roy smiled. “Loud and clear,” 

“Good. Now go get some bad guys, Red Arrow.” Lian said with a yawn. 

With one last kiss to her head, Roy left the room. He trusted Lian more than anyone, so if she said she’d be fine, he’d abide. Not completely of course. The earpieces were common, and he always turned on the security system he installed before slipping onto the fire escape. 

He didn’t have any leads, aside from watching out for the Red Hood. That would be difficult though. Right now, Roy didn’t have information about drug labs or gun trades. For the past few months, he’d mostly been patrolling the inner city and stopping petty thieves. Every now and then he’d join the Titans or Outsiders, but he hated not being with Lian, so small time crime it was.

Up on the roof was quiet. From here, he could see the heart of the city. It was a little far. Roy lived along the outskirts of it, but not far enough to be in the Glades. Oliver wouldn’t allow him nor Lian to live there. It had been a while since Roy had checked down there though. Feeling a need for something exciting, Roy turned away from the skyscrapers and towards the slums. 

He kinda hated not having powers. It made traveling a whole lot more difficult. His bike was MIA at the moment. Not pointing any fingers, but it had been taken apart and used as spare parts. So, now Roy needed a new one. Shooting zipline arrows everywhere left an obvious trail of where you came from, so he couldn’t travel that way either. Tragically, Roy had to silently maneuver his way down the fire escape. 

Once on the ground, he broke into a jog, sneaking into alleyways to avoid being seen. At the edge of the city was a small drop off from where the ground had sunk some. Roy slid down the hill and rolled into some brush. With a quick glance to make sure no one was trailing him from behind, he came out of his cover. 

Roy came down here every now and then, so he was familiar with the locals. By locals, he meant the homeless people. Oliver stayed in the city all the time, focusing on bigger problems now that he has a little team of his own. He wasn’t sure, but he thought Connor came down here sometimes to clear his head. Roy’s sorta-half-legal brother was usually the voice of reason for Oliver, so it made sense that he’d need some time away from the noise.

Despite it’s filth, the Glades seemed almost peaceful. Roy knew that wasn’t the case. Behind every door was a horror story and around every corner was someone filled with either drugs or fear, but that kind of crime was quiet. It was a weird contradiction that Roy had never found anywhere else.

“‘Ey, Red!” A man next to a flaming barrel of trash called. Roy nodded his head and walked over to the man.

“Bill,” Roy said. “Got any tips for a pal?” 

“Yeah, stop wearing that silly costume. You’ll never get a girl looking like that!” 

The other men situated near the barrel and a few others at another barrel laughed. For some reason, Roy’s brain suddenly thought of Peter. Jason? Peter. He quickly eliminated that thought. He decided to focus on the sting of annoyance he felt. Generation gaps were always so evident when people started cracking jokes.

“Oh, haha. Yeah make fun of the guy out here trying to protect you. I’ll remember that next time Janice threatens to gut you for blowing your change on cards.” Roy shot back. Now all the guys oohed at Roy’s comment and he felt a gush of smugness fill his bones.

Bill was some old geezer that Roy had saved a few years back. Although a little unfiltered for Roy’s opinion, at heart, Bill was a decent man. He was also a pretty good mole when he wasn’t wasting all his pocket change on poker nights. Roy wasn’t one to judge though. He found standing to the side and shaking his head in silent disapproval worked miles better. 

“Sorry, you’re right.” Bill apologized, but Roy could hear the teasing lit in the poor man’s tone. “We all know you shoot in the other direction anyways!”

The laughed kicked back up with a couple of whistles and Roy groaned. “I made a comment about one guy , Bill. One!”

“That’s all it takes, sonny.” 

“Don’t call me sonny. You don’t know how old I am.” 

“Alright, kid.” 

Roy snorted and flipped Bill off before walking further into the Glades. “Give me a call if you decide to be a useful prick instead of just a prick!” Roy yelled, bird still held high.

“I’m sure you’d love some prick, wouldn’t you?” Bill shouted back. Roy was thankful it was night and that his mask covered a large part of his face because he was blushing furiously

The teasing wasn’t exactly anything new. If it wasn’t over this, than it’d be over something else. He doesn’t mind it, not really, and the guys know he’d be quick to knock some teeth out if any of them took things too far. 

Disappearing behind some crumbling buildings, Roy began scavenging the land. The beginning of the night didn’t hold anything more than a few short conversations with residents and two purse snatchers being stopped. Later in the night, Roy stopped some kid from shooting up for the first time. He felt pretty damn proud of that. He even gave the kid the address to Ollie’s shelter. Hopefully he’d see him there soon.

Roy would’ve called it a night then and there, if not for the gunshot that rang out from about a block away. Taking action quickly, Roy rushed in that direction, glad his shoes were padded enough to eliminate the sound of his feet hitting the compacted dirt road.

He found himself in front of a really big shed or a really small barn. He wasn’t sure exactly. What he saw made him freeze in his tracks. The doors were wide open, revealing a man on the floor, blood pouring from various places on his body, the largest area being his crotch, which was severely disfigured. The sight comically made Roy wince before his nose wrinkled in disgust and his stomach dropped.

Near the body was a man wearing what looked like a costume motorcycle helmet. He also seemed to be wearing baggy pants and some sort of jacket. He was kneeling in front of a little girl, one that couldn’t be much older than Lian, maybe even younger. The man was pulling off his jacket and wrapping it around her shoulders to hide how badly tattered her clothes were. She’d been assaulted. Roy realized. 

He hastily hid behind a tireless vehicle stationed near him. He watched the man lead the girl out of the building and towards Roy’s direction. He had two options: try to hide from this very violent person, or confront this very violent person. Roy, ever the thrill seeker, chose the latter. 

He stood from his hiding place with the bow drawn. “Care to explain what the hell happened here?” 

The man startled and the girl quickly hide behind him in fear. Roy quickly lowered his bow, realizing his mistake. Apparently that was the wrong choice because the man pulled a gun on Roy. “Not really.” The man stated blandly.

Wow. Rude. The man flicked his gun, signaling for Roy to toss the bow, so he did.

“She needs to be taken to the hospital. Can you do that?” Asked the man in the helmet, an electrical crackle making his voice unidentifiable. “Then call the cops, tell ‘em to come down here and to get some DNA samples from Sofia.” 

“Sofia?” Roy softly asked, eyes flickering to the girl still tucked behind the man. 

“That’s her name. Can’t get a last name.” 

“Okay. Yeah, okay. I can do that. What about that man? You killed him.” 

“There won’t be any proof,” 

The man knelt down to speak to the girl, Sofia, whispering quiet enough that Roy couldn’t hear him. Roy glanced back to the barn. His insides twisted uncomfortably at the idea of letting a killer get away, but the idea of a sicko like the dead man being alive almost made Roy vomit. 

Sofia slowly walked toward Roy. He squatted down to meet her eye. “Hey, I’m Red Arrow.” He said with the most comforting smile he could muster. 

The girls eyes flickered in recognition. She turned back to the other man and said, “ ¡ Rojo y rojo!”

The man nodded. “Sí. Puedes confiar en el.”

When the girl look at Roy again, he asked if she’d like to be carried, to which she agreed. He carefully picked her up, his heart breaking with how she curled up close to him, burying herself in her borrowed jacket. 

The man handed Roy his bow once they were both standing. “Thanks,” he said.

Roy nodded once, and then they were off in opposite directions. 

 

Chapter Text

 


The hospital kindly did the favor of calling the police for Roy. One of the nurses also mistakenly thought the jacket wrapped around Sofia was his. He almost denied it when it was handed to him, but remembered what Sofia’s savior had said about proof. Whether he somehow knew Roy would keep the jacket or if he really just didn’t leave evidence on it was unknown to Roy.

(Besides, Roy couldn’t budge the feeling that he’d seen the jacket somewhere before.)

He did know that Sofia was safely returned to her family thanks to the radio he had on while he worked on cleaning up his shop. The owner of the car with the messed up brakes had stopped by earlier to pick it up and pay. So, now Roy didn’t have anything to do. Moments like this really made him wonder why he stopped working for the government.

But the story of Sofia playing over the air, it reminded him why. If he was out there, traveling around and knocking down the kingpins, who’d be out here helping the kids. Was he supposed to leave that to unpredictable vigilantes like the guy he met last night?

Speaking of him, Roy looked towards his office, where the jacket was thrown in his chair. When he finally returned home, he found Lian sleeping peacefully in her bed. The sight caused his throat to tighten. He had collapsed onto his knees by her bed and sobbed silently for nearly an hour. He knew she would be okay, the alarms never went off and she never called in to report anything. Nevertheless, he was a wreck when he finally managed to get to his own room and peel off his Red Arrow suit. 

The next morning, he slept fitfully through his alarm, only awakening because Lian was yelling about being late. In a frenzy, he had thrown the jacket on, along with a pair of old sneakers, and rushed her to school with a bag consisting of two yogurt cups and a bagel. 

Instead of returning to the apartment, he went straight to his shop, where he found his customer already waiting. He apologized profusely for being late and the woman just waved him off with an eye roll and annoyed scowl. The rest of the exchange was quick and tense. Roy was thankful when she was gone.

It wasn’t until he had made a crappy cup of coffee, with his crappy little coffee maker he had in the corner of his office, that he realized what he was wearing. Fearing the chance that someone would recognize the jacket, he changed into his jumpsuit and tossed it into the seat of his chair. 

With a sigh, he emptied the dustpan he was sweeping into and placed it against the wall with his discarded broom. He should invest in some advertisement to get more people to come to him for their auto needs. He could even expand the business to maintenance in general! Roy could even talk to Oliver about getting Team Arrow to sponsor him! Actually no- that would link him to the heroes, therefore linking Lian. Bad idea.

Roy was about to go sulk in his office when he heard the sound of grunting and dragging coming from outside the garage. He ran out to make sure no one was being murdered, or having sex, he didn’t know which would be grosser to see, but it turned out to just be some guy pushing a motorcycle towards the entrance.

“Need help?” Roy asked. The guy looked up, teal eyes widening a fraction and- wait.

“Oh. Hi, Roy.” Peter said, looking sheepish. “You work here?” 

“I own here,” corrected Roy. He crossed his arms over his chest and cocked his head to the side. He eyeballed Peter with a faux glare, using pretend annoyance to hide the fact that he was actually checking the other man out. Instead of the blazer from before, he was wearing dark jeans and a leather jacket. Roy begrudgingly thought that maybe Bill was right.

“I’m guessing,” Peter started slowly, “That you’re mad I hadn’t called.” 

“Actually, I had forgotten about that. Take another guess.” 

Peter looked behind himself then to both sides. He turned back to Roy, “If I get it wrong, will you kill me a second time?” 

“You asshole!” Roy yelled and reached into his pocket to throw the first thing he could find. It turned out to be a stained washcloth that fluttered to the ground uselessly. Both men watched it fall, then, Jason started laughing obnoxiously. 

Roy marched closer and jabbed him in the chest. “Why didn’t you just tell me who you were, idiot? I was worried someone knew who I was!” He whispered harshly. 

Jason at least had the nerve to look semi-guilty. “You don’t hide it all that well, you know. Bright red hair and green tattoos stand out when you look for them.” 

“You’re still the same brat you were back when you wore green panties,” 

Jason flushed at the comment, his face twisting in embarrassment. “They were not panties, and I’m not a brat!”

“Yeah? You just stomped your foot like a toddler throwing a tantrum.” Roy said, nodding down to their feet where Jason hadn’t actually stomped. 

“I did not. You did.” 

Silence filled the air between them, matching scowls on both their faces. Roy honestly couldn’t believe he was actually right! Sure there were some signs, but for the most part, Roy was just pulling stuff out of nowhere and hoping that maybe he was right about his outlandish theory of Jason being back. 

“I missed you, Red.” Jason finally said.

“Me too, Jaybird.” 

They pulled each other into a hug. Resting his chin on Jason’s shoulder, Roy had to fight back the tears threatening to spring from his eyes. Even with people coming back to life and dying all the time in the hero business, Roy still became overwhelmed with emotions any time it happened. Hell, it had been nearly ten years since he last saw Jason. He was at least a little entitled to feel emotional.

 After a minute of enjoying each other’s embrace, Jason and Roy eventually parted and pushed Jason’s bike into the garage. Now that he knew who the other man was, Roy was more keen to answer any questions he had. Jason mostly asked about how Roy ended up back in Star with Lian, who he had missed a lot apparently. Roy explained things with Jade, and being Arsenal, and how Oliver had extended a hand when Roy needed it. 

Then they talked about Jason’s bike and how it got busted. The front hubcap was missing along with the entire back wheel, and Roy didn’t miss the opportunity to laugh at the irony there. It was safe to say Jason was pissed about it, but he still let out a low chuckle in good humor. 

“Does anyone else know you’re alive?” Roy finally asked while he filled a paper to send off so he could get the right wheel for Jason. 

“Bruce does, and I think Dick might. The new bird brats probably do too. The only others are Donna and Koriand’r.” Sighed Jason. “The only one that was on purpose was Bruce, but of course the world just had to work against me and now practically everyone from my past knows.”

“I didn’t know! I figured it out on my own, thank you very much.” Roy leaned up against one of the tables in the garage. “And the bats are focused on something else right now. At least I think they are. So, you know, I don’t think you have to worry about them barraging you with questions.” 

“What’s that?” Asked Jason. “The thing they’re working on?”

“Some guy named the Red Hood. Kinda sounds like he’s copying me, I know. The whole red gimmick. Apparently he’s got some anti-hero shtick or something. Killing bad guys and hurting people. No one innocent though, which is kinda surprising. Now that I think about it, you reckon he might be an ex-Suicide Squad member?” 

Although seemingly intrigued, Jason shook his head. “Sounds like another Arkham escapee to me. Probably took inspiration from Batman and thinks he’s doing the job better.”

Roy nodded in though. “Weird that they haven’t caught him yet. I guess it is kinda hard to catch a guy that keeps moving around though.” 

Jason let out a strained laugh. “Oh yeah. It’s really hard.” 

Jason’s gaze was cast downward. For someone who tried to hide his identity, he was surprisingly easy to read. Unlike the other Robins, Jason was openly expressive in all regards. Even when he was the Boy Wonder, every single emotion the boy had was clearly seen behind his mask. He didn’t hide things for the sake of his team because he never really had a solid team.

Roy found that a little sad. Practically every hero gets around to having a team eventually. Jason’s chance got cut short though. “Jaybird? What have you been doing all this time now that the Robin suit doesn’t fit?” 

“Trying to figure stuff out mostly. Reuniting with other heroes that I can trust, sorta. I didn’t exactly confront everyone I’ve visited. I wasn’t even planning on talking to you actually.” Jason said. His eyes flicked up to meet Roy’s again. “I never got the chance to say it, but thanks for all you did for me back when I was Robin. And congratulations on the business. It’s pretty cool.”

Roy waved off the praise, then nodded to his office with an offer of bad coffee. Jason accepted and followed him into the office, taking a seat on a stool next to the coffee pot. He folded his arms on the table and laid his head atop them, keeping an eye on Roy’s movements. Roy made a new pot, his earlier one had already gone cold.

“The stuff you’re trying to figure out,” Roy started and Jason’s eyes moved up from the pot to him. “Do you want to talk about it?” 

“No,”

“Okay,”

They continued looking at each other with nothing but the sound of the coffee pot keeping them from dead silence. Roy could understand Jason’s wish to stay quiet. He couldn’t even begin to imagine what it’s like to come back to life. Jason was buried, right? Did someone dig him up? Did he dig himself up? That would explain the finger scars. Either way, the thought seemed terrifying. 

When the coffee was finished, he poured some into an extra mug he kept. He preferred using real dishes and cleaning them later as opposed to disposable ones. It was cheaper this way. The mug was plain red, one of the few cups he owned that didn’t have some sort of design on it, whether it be a logo or pattern. 

Jason thanked him before cradling the drink and taking slow sips. He clearly grew, which made Roy wonder how long Jason had been back. He assumed it must’ve been a long time, especially since he seemed to be in near perfect condition, aside from the faraway look in his eye. 

“So, what now? After I fix your bike, are you going to leave?” Asked Roy sounding more or less upset. He may not have known Jason all that well before, but he was easy to talk to, and Roy doesn’t even have to hide his double life from the guy. It’d be nice to have a friend who wasn’t part of Team Arrow to hang around Star City for a while.

Jason stared down into the dark liquid in his mug. Roy realized that meant he was thinking. It also meant he was about to give an indirect answer. “I don’t have any reason to stay,”

Roy had to look away before he gave away just how much that hurt. Damnit, why did that hurt? Suddenly, a thought struck him. “Do you have a reason to go?” 

Roy turned back to Jason to catch the taken aback look the younger man was wearing. “I,” he hesitated, “No. Not really.”

“Then I’ll give you one to stay for a while! Coming back from the dead sounds like hell. I can practically see the tension coming off you, so take a rest here in Star.

You got a place to stay?” 

Jason nodded and Roy smiled. 

“It can get kinda boring, slowing down and taking a break and just settling, but it’s worth the experience. Trust me.” Roy said confidently. “And Lian will be totally psyched to see you again! What do you say?” 

Jason’s mouth opened and closed a few times before he bit his lip and looked away. Roy sat down on the stool next to Jason instead of leaning against the wall. He watched the other man think it over, the same conflict from last week dancing in his irises.
“Okay,” he eventually said. “I’ll stay for a while. Can we keep it on the down-low though? I might just break Queen’s nose if I have to see him anytime soon.” 

Roy winced. “I understand that. Yeah, I won’t tell anyone you’re back. Don’t expect me to lie to Wayne if he calls though. I’d be too scared to.” 

After their conversation died down, Roy took a closer look at Jason’s bike while he had a  look around the shop. The bike had a few scratches, but other than the wheels being messed with, it was in good shape.

A few hours passed, then Jason said he needed to be somewhere. He promised to actually call this time, along with pointing out that he’d have to come back for his motorcycle anyways. Roy, in turn, promised to keep Jason’s identity a secret and not mention him to anyone. 

When Roy went back into his office, he found a sticky note on his desk. It had a location on it that Roy recognized as one of the cafés uptown. Underneath the address read:

Tomorrow

1300

-Jay

Roy grinned at the note before tucking it into his pocket and carrying on around the shop.

Chapter Text

Archery practice went much more smoothly that afternoon. Her excitement for her field trip on Friday hindered her aiming a bit, but honestly, Roy figured she was too distracted by the trip to really care about practice. Not that he minded. As long as Lian was happy, he was happy. That wasn’t even a figure of speech either. Lian’s glee was contagious. 

Even when it started pouring on their way home, Roy couldn’t keep the smile off his face. Hand in hand, he and Lian ran through the rain together, only stopping when there was a puddle that just had to be jumped in. When they made it home and through the door, they looked as if they had just dove into a pool.

To be sure Lian didn’t catch a cold, Roy ran her a warm bath as soon as they shook the rain out their hair, effectively splattering the entrance walls with small specks of water. He found the coziest pajamas Lian owned, a fuzzy Batman pair with an attached cowl that never failed to make Roy laugh, and set them on the counter as usual. 

He changed his own clothes too, of course, and washed his hands before getting to work making dinner. It was definitely a ramen night. Roy wasn’t the best chef, but he could make a mean instant cup of noodles. While he waited for his turn in the bathroom, he filled out the field trip papers for Lian, then promptly smacked himself in the face when he realized he had forgotten to send off the papers for Jason’s wheels.

When Lian emerged from the bathroom, she clambered up onto one of the barstools at the kitchen island with a book and began slurping down her noodles. Roy gave a flick to one of the drooping ears on her cowl as he passed her. She gave out a muttered, “I’m the night, cha. Don’t mess with me.” 

With a laugh, he made his way into his room to grab an old, grease-stained shirt and some sweatpants. He also sent a text to Oliver, saying that he was staying in for the night with Lian. He rolled his eyes at the thumbs up emoji his dad sent him, then went to the bathroom.

While he took extra care washing his hair, he thought about his advertising idea and expanding his business. He could go to the library and print out papers to pin to posts and cork boards inside stores. He could offer out of shop working during the day too, so he could go to places that need things fixed like coolers or heaters. He’d be a real handyman! 

After his date with Jason, he could hurry there and--

Date!? Where did that come from?

Roy stared at the wall in front of him while he rinsed his hair. Weird.

 

Later that night, Roy was managing his finances; shopping lists, Lian’s lunch, and zoo costs, expenses for arrows and trinkets, etc, when Lian came to stand in front of him where he was seated in the kitchen. He watched her climb onto the same barstool from earlier and placed her book on the table.

The book was kinda thick, about half an inch? Maybe that wasn’t a lot to some people, but Roy knew he’d be complaining about something like that in high school. Lian fixed him with a professional look, folding her hands on the table, so he put his pen down and did the same.

“There’s a character in here. I want to be her for Halloween.” Lian stated.

“That’s still a few weeks away,”

Lian gave a sweet smile. “Just enough time to gather everything we’ll need,” 

If there was one thing Roy knew his daughter got from him, it had to be her ability to create things. Not necessarily robots like Roy, but Lian had the same way of thinking, she could look at a pile of materials and think of different ways they all fit together, whether it be a pile of fabric or popsicle sticks.

Roy bent his elbows and propped his chin on his folded fingers. “Tell me about it?” 

So, Lian did. She explained everything from the plot of the book down to the details of her favorite character’s shoes. She was like a sponge being squeezed, letting out everything she had soaked in. Apparently, the story was about a princess who was pronounced dead but was found by her best friend, who, against social norms, became a knight.

Roy was glad Lian was so into literature and stories, it’d help strengthen her imagination and creativity. Her intelligence was also flourishing. It seemed like every other day, there’d be some new ingenious antic via the little girl herself. 

“Then she finds out her friend isn’t dead! So, they reunite and start working together. I haven’t finished the book, but I think they might get together in the end.” Rambled Lian happily. 

“Oh, yeah? What makes you say that?” Roy asked, curious about how someone so young perceived romance. Times have changed since Roy was her age, so kids these days had to see it differently, right? 

“They always have each other’s backs and they make each other happy. That’s what matters, isn’t it?” She asked, but it sounded like she was making sure Roy agreed rather than asking an actual question. 

“Absolutely,” he agreed without hesitation. “The key to love is faith and joy. No matter if it’s familiar, romantic, or platonic.” 

Lian smiled widely, then continued explaining the story.

 

The next morning, Roy woke up a little extra early, making sure Lian had a fulfilling breakfast to make up for the day before. The fulfilling breakfast being homemade pancakes and fried eggs. It was something Roy used to eat a lot when he was a teenager since it was fairly easy to make. Due to his years of practice, he’d gotten pretty damn good at making it.

“Do you think the zoo has a bear,” Lian asked with a mouthful of egg. 

“I can confirm that they do have a bear,” Roy answered with a mouthful of pancake. Swallowing, he questioned, “Why?”

“I’m going to wrestle it,” Lian replied, confidence lacing her words.

“Sure. I’ll film it. If you lose you’re grounded though.” Laughed Roy, finishing off his pancake. 

“Don’t worry, I’ll win. I’ll be like Teddy Roosevelt. They’ll name a doll after me.”

“No. No. Roosevelt didn’t kill the bear. That’s why teddy bears are given to kids because they’re a symbol of compassion.” Roy explained. 

Lian watched him with wide eyes and when he finished, she grinned. “So why don’t you have any merch, cha? You never kill.”

Roy scowled. “You were baiting me, weren’t you?” 

Lian just smiled and got up to put her empty plate in the sink. “I’m only nine. I couldn’t do that.”

“You’re too much like me,”

“What’s so bad about that?” Lian asked, and if she noticed how Roy’s eyes got glassy, she didn’t say anything.

 

After dropping Lian off at school, Roy jogged to the library. He figured since he skipped on his normal run this morning, he could make up for it now. Inside, he waved to the librarian before making his way to the computers to print out the advertisements he whipped up after getting Lian’s approval for it and seeing her to bed.

He had wanted to call Oliver and get some advice from him too, but the older man was patrolling. Roy felt a little guilty about skipping out, especially since that red helmet guy could be out shooting other people, but Roy had faith the other Arrows could cover for him. Besides, Roy deserved a break after yesterday night.

Roy wasn’t artistic in the common sense. He was intuitive and creative, but the only thing he could draw with a pencil was blueprints. So, it was safe to say he wasn’t exactly an expert in graphic design. Nonetheless, his ability to put parts together did somewhat help him develop what he’d call a decent composition.

It wasn’t anything special, containing the basic information like location and work hours, along with “Roy’s Resources” printed across the top. Not the most creative name, he knows, but look at the hero names he chose for himself; Arsenal and Red Arrow. He’s glad Jade decided to name their child.

Once all the papers were printed, he tucked them in a folder he had in a drawstring bag he brought with him. Before opening, he supposed he could grab the papers for Jason’s wheels and take them to the post office, then put up one of his flyers. That would give him plenty of time before he had to meet the former Robin.

At his garage, a man was outside waiting. Roy greeted him in kind and apologized for his lateness. The man asked if Roy knew anyone who could work on tractors. He explained that he had a farm and recently bought a newer model, but it started acting up and he couldn’t figure out how to fix it. Making sure the man still had all the papers he got when he bought the thing, Roy told him it wouldn’t be a problem to swing by over the weekend and take a look. He handed the man one of his flyers, for the contact information of course, then gave a cheery farewell.

He hadn’t even put up his ads yet and he was already getting traction. He’d be making bank in no time.

Inside his office, he gathered the papers he needed and put them in an envelope to send off. One of those big orange ones for important documents. While sealing it and writing the mailing address, Roy couldn’t help but feel like something was out of place. That’s when he noticed his chair was empty. Normally, it would be empty, but there was supposed to be a jacket laying across the seat. A jacket that was suspiciously not there. 

In its place was a sticky note, like the one Jason had used yesterday, which reminded Roy he needed to buy more. On the note wasn’t any words, instead, a tiny doodle of the helmet that the man from the other night had on. Its eyes were drawn like he was smiling though. There was even a little thumbs up next to the smiling helmet. It was kinda cute, except for the fact that a murder broke into his store to steal back a jacket. Which meant that the murder knew who he was. Shit.

Roy quickly pulled out his phone and fumbled with it before pulling up his contacts. Who would he even call? The Arrows already had something going on, and dragging them away to play witness protection seemed unnecessary. He could handle his own, but that didn’t mean he wasn’t panicking. 

He needed air. Roy rushed out of the office, but not before shoving the sticky note into his pocket. While he jogged to the post office, he tried to clear his head. 

The man with the helmet didn’t have any reason to go after Roy. In fact, if he knew who Roy was, then he knew Roy was a parent. Despite not knowing much about the guy, it was obvious he cared about kids, at least the situation with Sofia made it seem that way. So, Lian wasn’t in danger. That single thought calmed Roy down greatly. 

Still, he had to tell somebody. His best bet would probably be Ollie, but again he was patrolling and the Arrows were busy looking for the Red Hood-

Roy stopped suddenly, feet glued to the sidewalk. He reached into his pocket and pulled out the sticky note. Staring at it with wide eyes, Roy once again felt like a detective from a classic noir movie. He should buy a fedora or something just to complete the look.

Red Hood meant red helmet. Roy thought it over in his head. It made sense, Bruce said that he was expected to show up in Star eventually and here he was. Killing perverts. That was different than what Bruce said he targeted. That asshole didn’t even mention molesters getting killed- child molesters at that!

Roy didn’t agree with killing, not unless it was under very specific circumstances, like life or death. Yet, he could understand the Red Hood’s motive now. Sure, busting up drug labs and beating people near death was one thing, but people who hurt kids? That was a whole different ball game to Roy. 

It seemed like he would be calling Oliver after all.

He couldn’t right now though, not in the open like this. So, Roy tucked the note back in his pocket and continued his jog to the post office. Luckily, it wasn’t too far. He was there and gone in less than fifteen minutes. Add another ten to that, and he was back in his shop and pulling up the Green Arrow’s number.

Surprisingly, it picked up on the first ring. 

“Roy?” Oliver asked. “Is everything alright?”

“Not exactly,” Roy said, a little stunned by the urgency in Oliver’s voice. It warmed his heart to be able to hear how much he cared though. “I think I ran into the Red Hood a few nights ago.”

“Are you okay? Is Lian safe?” Oliver sounded almost panicked now, the same way Roy was earlier. 

“Yeah. We’re fine, don’t worry. I just wanted to let you know that he was in town. But, Ollie?”

“Yes, Roy?”

“I don’t know if this guy is all that bad,”

“Roy-”

“No. Hear me out, please?” 

Roy could hear Oliver sigh through the receiver. Oliver wasn’t used to being interrupted, nor told to listen, excluding Dinah, of course. That kinda came with being the mayor. “Okay. Go ahead.” 

“When I ran into him, he was saving a kid. I know you saw it on the news. The story about the little girl I brought to the hospital and then the follow up about her attacker being dead? That was the Red Hood. He saved her.” Roy relayed carefully, purposely not mentioning the jacket incident, or that the Red Hood seemed to know his identity, therefore, probably Oliver’s too.

“Killing is still a crime,” Oliver said and Roy felt the frustration build up in him. The same frustration from when he was a teenager.

“I know that, Ollie. But sometimes good people do bad things. We both know that. I’m just saying, when you catch this guy, try rehabilitation and save the incapacitation for if he refuses. You might be able to save him that way, isn’t that what heroes do?” 

“I,” Oliver sounded conflicted, and Roy couldn’t blame him. Covering your face didn’t make you a superhero, and it certainly didn’t give you the right to be judge, jury, and executioner. However, the fact that the Red Hood saved a little girl meant he wasn’t a monster, he was a person. Roy would bet that he was just some guy that lost his way. If someone were to offer a hand, maybe he could change. Call Roy an optimist, but he liked his chances.

“Okay,” Oliver finally agreed. “Okay. We’ll be cautious with this one. Since you’re so passionate about it, when we catch him, I’ll call you. Does that sound good?” 

“It sounds great. Thank you.” 

“I expect a report about your encounter though. And a reason why you didn’t tell anyone you ran into him.” 

“I’ll have it to you ASAP,”

“See you soon, Roy.”

“Bye, Ollie.”

With all of that out the way, all Roy had to worry about for the rest of the day was his totally-not-a-date-don’t-even-think-of-it-as-that with Jason.

Chapter Text

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-”

“Roy!” 

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.” 

Chapter Text

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. 

“My what?”

“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.

“Rhetorical question,”

“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?”

“For...dramatic effect?”

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?”

“Western bluebirds,” 

“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.

Chapter Text

“So, we have a scary movie about aliens, which is really dumb because all the aliens I know are nice. Like the Kents and Aunt Kori. Or we can watch the one with the princess that saves herself.” Lian said. “I like the princess one more and I think so does cha, but he probably wants to seem cool around you, so he’ll say the alien movie.” 

Jason laughed from his spot in the small plastic chair situated at Lian’s miniature Justice League table. Atop it was a plastic pink tea set, and Jason currently had pink lemonade in his cup that he had been sipping at. In the middle of the table was the teapot along with a plate of animal crackers. In front of Lian was her own cup, her math homework that Jason had been helping her with, and the two movies she was talking about.

“Why would your dad want to seem cool around me? I already think he’s cool.” Jason asked. “And I think we should watch the princess movie. It sounds more interesting than aliens.”

Lian smiled and set the princess movie on top of the alien one. “Cha always tried really hard to be cool in front of other heroes. Lam phach. Not in a bad way, he just wants to be liked.”

“You’re really insightful for a nine-year-old,” Jason commented. “You read Roy really well too, and you have a huge vocabulary. Braggart? I didn’t even know that word until at least middle school.” 

“I’m really smart,” Lian grinned.

“Whose the lam phach now, huh?” 

Lian giggled and Jason smiled widely. He almost couldn’t believe that wisecracking, bumbling, charming, idiotic Roy had raised such a smart kid. But Jason would give credit where it was due, Roy was intuitive and strategic in his own way. He was understanding too. Putting all those together, it was easier to believe.

Still, it was mind-blowing how much everything had changed since Jason had been gone. The Titans didn’t all live in the tower together anymore, instead, a new generation of them did, and Bruce had two new Robins. Some of Jason’s old friends had apparently also gotten around to dying and coming back. Roy was a dad and had long hair. That very last thing wasn’t too important, but wow, Jason didn’t know that’d be something he was into. 

Speaking of Roy, Jason let his eyes drag over to the kitchen where Roy was cooking. There wasn’t a divide between the living room and kitchen, which Jason liked, it made everything feel more open. A lot less secretive than everywhere he had lived.

Roy had earbuds in, so he couldn’t hear Lian and Jason’s conversation, but Jason thought he caught the redhead glancing in their direction a few times. He wouldn’t be surprised if Roy could read lips since a lot of superheroes could.

“Jayjay?” Lian asked. “Why are you staring at cha?”

Jason snapped his eyes back to Lian and gave a small smile. “I was just thinking about how different things are now. You and Roy have both grown a lot. I’m just a little sad I wasn’t here to see it happen.”

Lian tilted her head in confusion. “But you’re here now, right? Cha says we shouldn’t judge people on what they have or haven’t done, but we should do it on how they’re trying to fix it.” 

“I didn’t know Roy could be smart,” Jason joked.

Lian grinned. “He is when he tries, but not as smart as me.”

"Being cocky really does run in the family, doesn't it?" 

Lian hummed and sipped at her lemonade while staring at Jason with wide innocent eyes. He’d be lying if he said he hadn’t pulled the same trick on Bruce.

Actually, there were a lot of traits Lian had that Jason could see in other people. She picked up on some of Donna’s mannerisms, like the way her eyes crinkle when she’s acting coy. She picked up fidgeting with her pencil when she’s doing work, something Jason had seen Wally do a long time ago when the speedster was in college.

That wasn’t very surprising though. Team members pick up similar habits all the time. That was something Jason was taught to look for actually. It helped when identifying who was working with who. However, he didn’t really want to think about his training right now.

On the way back to the apartment, Lian started talking about the field trip her class would be going on tomorrow. Surprisingly, or at least, surprisingly to Jason, she had asked if he wanted to come along. Not really sure how to tell her “no,” Jason ended up agreeing. 

He had never been to a zoo before, which he mentioned after promising he’d go. Both Harpers’ jaws dropped and they started talking over each other, asking why Jason had never been. He gave a shrug and a little grin, then explained that he just never had the chance. 

Their faces fell at that, and Jason instantly regretted saying it. Despite some of the things that Jason does, he actually despises making people sad, nonetheless kids. And Roys (Making a Roy said was actually the worst ). He tried to mend the conversation by saying he was excited to finally have the opportunity, which he was! 

Instead of being cheered up like Jason hoped, he was met with matching sets of determined green eyes and words of affirmation that his trip to the zoo would be the best one ever. So, he had that to look forward to. 

Recently, Jason had been doing a thing where he’d try to find something to anticipate for the week. It was a good motivator to get out of bed in the morning and do something. It wasn’t that he didn’t want to do things, but rather than facing his own reality was difficult sometimes. There weren't many people who he could talk to about what he felt, about the pain and anger that twisted around just under his skin. 

He thinks that, in part, that was one of the reasons he agreed to stay in Star City so easily. He thought that maybe, eventually, he could talk to Roy, or that Roy would be able to distract him with whatever antics the grease monkey could come up with. To make things better, Jason would have absolutely no qualms against babysitting Lian some time. Kids are always so upbeat and energetic, Jason can never help but act the same around them.

A small part of him thinks it’s selfish. He knows how attached he can get to people, and he does care about Lian and Roy, but at this point, he could leave and move on. The longer he stays, the harder that would be. Realistically, he knows that time will come eventually. He’ll have to go back to Gotham at some point and face his family.

Yet, there’s something about sitting across from a little girl, drinking slightly too sweet pink lemonade while her dad cooks dinner, which made Jason feel calm. The anxiety and aggression die down and he finds himself focusing on princess movies of all things. 

There was one more factor playing into Jason’s decision to stay too. One that he didn’t really want to admit because if he did that, leaving wouldn’t just be painful, it’d be hell .

When Jason gets attached to people, he gets attached. It doesn’t matter what kind of relationship it is, he holds a certain kind of passion for the people he cares about, a strong love that never really fully goes away. Taking Bruce, for example, Jason is so, so angry. But, no matter how much he’s started to resent the man, he knows that if asked, he’d give his own life for Bruce’s without hesitation.

When he was still a teenager, it was a lot easier for Jason to get attached to people. He loves all the Titans as much as he loves his family at Wayne Manor. Each one of them had a certain instance where Jason officially considered them someone to really care about.

The instance with Roy wasn’t too long after they had met. One of his earlier missions with the team ended up with all of them splitting off into pairs. Jason thought he was going to end up with Wally or even Garfield, who at the time was also new to the team, but instead, Roy turned to him and asked, “ Wanna go perch together, little birdie? ” 

Jason, being the naive, hormonal teen he was, flushed red and tried to stutter out an “okay.” Before he could get it out, Donna had smacked Roy in the back of the head, knocking the yellow hat he wore right off. Jason remembered staring at it while Donna explained that Roy would find a place high enough, and far away enough to keep Jason out of the line of fire.

Jason’s eyes had snapped back up, and in the strongest tone he could muster, he said, “I don’t need to be sheltered, Wonder Girl. I’m just as capable as everyone else here. ” 

Both of the Titans had been taken aback at that. After a second, Roy had cracked a grin and clicked his tongue. “ He’s got spunk,

The compromise they eventually came to, was to just follow Donna’s original orders. 

Jason pouted the whole way to the “Birds’ Nest,” as Roy had called it. The nest just being the roof of a building that had a clear view of the main fight. The fight that Jason wanted to be a part of. 

C’mon little birdie, what’s the problem? ” Roy had asked for the hundredth time.

Nothing, ” Jason spat. “ And my name is Jason. So, stop calling me that. ” 

Jason, huh? Well, alright Jaybird. What’s got you so peeved ?” 

Turning to Roy with narrowed eyes, Jason growled out, “ Call me that again and you’ll lose your trachea. ” 

I don’t even know what that is, dude. ” Roy had laughed. “ Kid, listen, us non-powered  heroes get sidelined a lot at first, so we have to take it and prove that we’re tough enough to run alongside the likes of Superman. ” 

Bullshit, ” Jason crossed his arms and sat next to where Roy was crouched with his bow aimed at the streets below. “ Batman is the leader of the Justice League and he doesn’t have powers. ” 

But he’s proven that he’s tough enough to do that. You see my point? ” Roy explained.

Jason mulled over it for a bit before sighing and nodding. “ Yeah. But it’s still unfair. I can kick ass. ” 

No one’s gonna agree with you more than I do, Jaybird. If I could be down there shooting baddies, I would. And I’d love to have you down there with me, but for now, the team needs us here, so that’s where we’ll stay.” He turned his head towards Jason and pulled his domino mask off . “Being bossed around, not feeling like you’re doing everything you can, it’s frustrating, but you’ll get through it and eventually realize that by just being here, you’re doing a lot. ” 

That’s what did it. The honesty in Roy’s eyes paired with the fact that he understood Jason’s anger and didn’t just brush it off, made Jason open his heart. Since that day, he’s felt like Roy was someone he could talk to, so if he was having an issue, usually with his anger management, he’d go to Roy. Not once did the archer turn him away.

“Hey, Jason?” Roy asked, startling Jason back to the present. “You good?”

Jason looked over to the kitchen, or rather, focused his vision on Roy since he was already looking that way. He nodded, then faced Lian again. “Do you wanna hear some stories from when Roy and I worked together?” 

Lian’s eyes lit up and she nodded eagerly. “Yes!”

With a light laugh, he leaned over the table and motioned Lian to do the same. Roy watched as Jason began to quietly tell a story that was probably very embarrassing and involved Roy screwing up. He wasn’t really bothered by it though. It would do Lian good knowing that someone she looks up to isn’t perfect. 

Jason’s eyes caught his and the brunette smiled before flicking his gaze back to Lian all while waving his hands around to add emphasis to whatever story he was telling.

 

Chapter Text

Dinner was fun. Jason, being ever observant, easily noticed how much spice Roy had been adding to the pot of chili. Luckily, when he was little, Dick would trick Jason into eating spicy candies all the time. He’d come up to him with a Fireball and say it was cherry gum. Jason would bite into it and immediately spit it out, causing Nightwing to double over with laughter.

Out of spite, Jason stated buying Fireballs and Red Hots for himself and ate them while on patrol. He built up his tolerance so that the next time Dick offered one, Jason would take it like a champ. Jason wasn’t the only observant one, however. Dick had seen what Jason was doing, so the next time he offered what was suppose to be cinnamon candy, ended up being a sour cherry candy.

Jason was back at square one.

Thanks to building up that tolerance, Jason had actually come to like cinnamon and sour cherry. He hoped that one day, he could pull the same trick on the little brothers that he now had. Or maybe Roy since the archer thought he could pull a fast one on Jason.

As soon as he took that first bite of the chili, Jason knew that the Harpers were his kind of people. One of his favorite moments now was the look on their faces when he didn’t react to the spice. He even went as far as to not touch his water until he was done. Disappointed, Roy had smacked his head against the table and Lian had mimicked the action, although she had the common sense to fold her arms on the table to stop from really hurting herself. Roy, on the other hand, has groaned in pain right after, causing Lian to look back up and laugh at her father who was then rubbing a red spot on his forehead.

So, yeah, dinner was a lot of fun. After it was over, they moved from the table, into the living room. Lian turned on the princess movie that Jason had chosen earlier, and he wasn’t ashamed to admit that it made him tear up a little. At least he wasn’t full-on bawling like Roy.

Then, the moon had risen and Roy had to leave for patrol. He asked Jason if he minded staying and watching over Lian. Pulling the former-Robin aside, he explained that he was a little more paranoid than usual now that he was aware that the Red Hood knew his address. Jason wanted to laugh at the irony of that, but acted serious and assured Roy that Jason would protect Lian with his life if need be. (That last part wasn’t an act.)

Seemingly comforted by Jason’s words, Roy said his goodbye and goodnight to Lian, telling her that she better be in bed by the time he returned. She promised she would adhere to Roy’s rules and gave her father a hug. Roy kissed her on the head before pulling away to stand up.

“Sleep tight, sweetheart. I’ll be back before sunrise. If you need anything, don’t be afraid to ask Jay.” He spoke softly.

Lian nodded and hugged his side one last time before running off to the bathroom to take a bath. Roy then turned to Jason and pulled the other man into a hug. Jason, originally stiff due to the surprise of being hugged, relaxed into it after a moment, bringing his arms to wrap around Roy. 

“Thanks again,” Roy said. “Help yourself to anything around the place.”

“Don’t mention it,” Jason mumbled, too distracted by how much he really missed hugs to focus on projecting his voice properly.

A pair of lips pressed against his temple and he felt his eyes widen. His hands clenched uselessly against the armor plate covering Roy’s back.

“Goodnight, Jaybird. Take care of my daughter for me, alright?” Roy said into his hair, then pulled away. He disappeared out the window with a wave.

Jason stared at the window, and the next thing he knew, Lian was tugging at his sleeve and asking to be tucked in. He snapped out of his trance and scooped her up with a smile. “Nice pajamas,” he commented.

“Uncle Dickie got them for me,” Lian explained, pulling at a loose string on her Nightwing onesie. 

“I can’t say I’m surprised. Do you have a Robin pair yet?” Jason asked and set Lian down on her bed. She shook her head and climbed under the blankets, pulling the Robin doll Jason had bought her close. “Then I’ll have to find you a pair,” he said and she smiled widely at him.

“Chúc ngủ ngon, Jayjay. See you in the morning?” Lian yawned.

“Bright and early,” he promised. “Chúc ngủ ngon,”

He gave her hand a light squeeze as her eyes slipped closed. Silently, he left her room, leaving the door cracked just in case. It was then that he realized he didn’t exactly have anything to do. Deciding his best bet would be to watch the alien movie Lian had also pulled out earlier, he popped the disc in the DVD player and laid out on the couch.

Sometime past midnight, he felt his eyes start to get heavy, and unknowingly let them slip shut. He wasn’t sure how long he was asleep, but he heard shuffling. On instinct, he slowed his breathing to seem like he was still in a deep sleep, and cracked an eye open just wide enough to see what was happening.

Coming in through the window was the familiar suit of Red Arrow. Relaxing at the fact that it was just Roy, Jason’s still tired brain lulled back into his dreamless state of slumber. He felt a blanket being placed atop him, along with a hand running through his hair, but he was already too far gone to really acknowledge it.

He woke to the sound of an alarm going off. The shock of it caused him to roll off the couch in a panic before realizing where he was. Catching his breath, he stood and folded the blanket that he had twisted up during the night.

As he was placing it on the arm of the couch, Lian skipped into the living room with a smile. “Chào buổi sáng. Jayjay!” She cheered.

“Chào buổi sáng,” he parroted. “Are you always this awake as soon as your alarm goes off?” 

“Nope! Only on days when I get to go to the zoo!” She climbed onto one of the chairs at the island and cracked open the book she had carried with her from her room. “Cha will be up in a bit to make breakfast. It takes him a while to brush his hair.” 

Jason took a seat across from the elementary schooler. “What about your hair?” 

“I can brush it on my own! But sometimes Cha will braid it for me.” She glanced at the top of Jason’s head. “Do you brush your hair, Jayjay?” 

Jason snorted and shook his head. “Not unless I have a date,” 

Lian fixed him with a confused look. “Then shouldn’t you brush it today?” She asked, and before Jason could question her on what she meant, Roy walked out of his room.

“Who wants flapjacks?” He asked. “Bear shaped ones to be exact,” 

“Yeah!” Lian cheered.

“Sure,” Jason agreed.

Roy began on breakfast while Lian read her book. Jason, not really having a morning routine, gravitated towards the blender and took a few fruits and vegetables out of the fridge. He felt Roy’s eyes on him as he maneuvered around the kitchen and saw Lian give him a few curious looks.

“Smoothies,” he explained, and Lian’s eyes lit up.

He got to work cleaning and dicing the produce before blending them together. He split the thickish liquid into three cups and placed them on the island. Lian excitedly took her cup and tried the drink. Roy was a little more hesitant with his. But much to Jason’s delight, they both ended up enjoying their smoothies. 

Feeling satisfied with his contribution to breakfast, Jason excused himself to the bathroom. He took a look at himself in the mirror and realized that, yeah, maybe he should brush his hair like Lian said. Jason busied himself with trying to flatten down some of the waves that protruded awkwardly from his skull. More or less satisfied with what he could do, he left the bathroom feeling a little less self-conscious about his appearance.  

When he approached the kitchen island again, Lian grinned at him and nodded. He quirked an eyebrow and took his previous seat. The two stared at each other while Jason drank his smoothie. Then, her grin turned mischievous. 

“Cha look, Jayjay knows how to brush his hair!” She exclaimed in a teasing tone that she had to have picked up from Roy.

Roy looked away from where he was flipping pancakes to gaze at Jason. He smirked and Jason felt fifteen again. “Looking good, Jay. Trying to impress the chimps at the zoo?” 

“Oh, yeah. Definitely.” Jason played along. “Think I got a chance?”

“I think you could woo all the animals at the zoo,” Roy laughed.

Jason hunched his shoulders slightly. “Thanks,” 

Lian glanced back and forth between the two men with a knowing look. However, it went unnoticed by them both.

An hour later, they all found themselves outside the school discussing how Jason was going to get to the zoo.

“Mrs. Ling,” Roy tried. “We can just pay right now, right? And then Jason can ride the bus. Please? Neither of us have a car at the moment.” He motioned towards where Jason was holding Lian, both of them directing hopeful looks at Mrs. Ling. “He’s really good with kids too! Been babysitting since he was in high school.” 

“Mister Harper, I cannot let someone with no relation to any of the students join on the bus ride. It’s a safety violation. If he wants to go to the zoo on his own and then meet up with you and Lian, that would be fine.” 

Panicked, Roy said, “But he does have a relation to a student! He’s literally holding my daughter.” 

Mrs. Ling looked unimpressed. “Then, Mister Harper, would you please calmly explain what Mister Jason’s relation to your daughter is and why it has never appeared on any documentation before now?” 

“Uh,” Roy dumbly stated. “Well, you see..”

“Oh! I can explain!” Lian said and squirmed in Jason’s arms until he let her down. She walked up to Mrs. Ling and motioned for her to kneel down so Lian could whisper in her ear. 

Jason gave Roy a questioning look, but he only shrugged in response, mouthing “no idea,” to him. Whatever Lian was saying to Mrs. Ling seemed to work because the woman eyeballed Roy and then Jason for a moment. 

“I see,” she eventually said, and Lian stepped back with a smile.

“It’s a secret though!” Lian affirmed before walking back to Jason to be picked up again.

Mrs. Ling nodded. “My apologies, Mister Harper, Jason. You’re both welcomed to ride the bus and help chaperone the children as long as you act appropriately. We load in five minutes.”

With that, she walked away. When the click of her heels eventually faded, Roy turned to Lian who was already gazing at him with wide innocent eyes. “What did you tell her?” Roy asked. “You didn’t tell her anything about Jason’s past, right?” 

Lian pouted. “No. I’m not a dummy. I just told her that you and Jayjay are dating, but want to keep it a secret.” 

The back of Roy’s neck began to turn red, luckily the jacket he was wearing had a high enough collar to hide it. Jason, on the other hand, didn’t have anything to hide the blush on his cheeks. “Huh. Quick thinking, sweetheart. How’d you come up with that?” Roy praised.

Lian’s pout vanished. “It was in one of the movies we have!” 

Roy grinned and picked her up so he could spin her around. “And people say that T.V. rots your brain. Pshh!” He scoffed. “Keep thinking like that and I’ll have to take you patrolling one day.” 

“I’d be the best sidekick,” Lian said confidently.

Roy smiled. “I don’t doubt it,” Then he looked at Jason, who was staring back. “Ready to go, Jaybird?”

The taller man nodded and moved to walk alongside Roy. They made their way onto the bus, Lian ditching them to sit with one of her friends. Roy and Jason decided to sit on one of the front seats along with the few other parents who came. It was a little cramped, the seats not made to hold two men right at six feet tall. Yes, six feet. Roy may have been five-eleven, but he would fight until the day he died that it was close enough. One inch really wasn’t that big of a difference, at least, not in this context, he thought. 

“So, you’ve never been to a zoo,” Roy said and Jason shook his head.

“To be fair, I’ve seen a lot of different animals. Circuses, the wild, in the homes of traffickers, but not at the zoo. I don’t think Gotham actually has a zoo. If it does, it’s probably run-down.” Jason rambled. “I like animals though. It’s just like I said, I never had the chance.”

“Well, I’m honored to accompany you to your first zoo visit,” Roy said. “And no paying for mine or Lian’s food. I’m a self-sustaining father.” 

Jason pouted, “But I like helping out.” 

“Just being here is enough, Jaybird. How many times am I gonna have to say that until you believe me?” 

“I’m a little stubborn if you haven’t noticed.” 

“Then I guess I’ll just have to repeat it until you get so annoyed that you can’t be bothered to disagree anymore,” 

“Go ahead and try, Red. I don’t sway easily.” 

“Is that a challenge, Jason? Because I’m already scheduled to kick your butt Sunday.” Roy wrapped his arm around Jason’s shoulder. “I’d hate to beat you physically and emotionally like that. Honestly, it would be better for you if you’d just give in and accept me as victorious without all this needless confrontation.” 

“You know, it sounds like you’re trying to chicken out to me,” Jason commented nonchalantly. He looked out the window with mock uninterest.

“Not at all. I’ll take a lot of joy laying you flat.”

“Keep talking while you can,” 

Roy noticed the uptick of Jason’s lips. Roy leaned closer, lowering his voice so that his rather inappropriate comeback wouldn’t be overheard by their children compatriots, but was interrupted by someone clearing their throat. His eyes trailed to the top of the seat in front of him, his eyes catching Mrs. Ling’s.

“Remember what I said about being appropriate,” she said simply, then turned back around.

Roy looked back at Jason and offered a sheepish smile. Keeping his voice quiet, he said, “How are we going to pull off this dating thing?” 

Jason’s eyes flickered past Roy while he thought, “It can’t be that hard. Mia thought we were, and Lian’s teacher seems to believe it. I’d say we’re doing a pretty good job already, and since we have to stay PG, we won’t have to prove anything.” 

Roy nodded along, a grin forming on his lips. “Awh. So, no holding hands?”

Jason, although starting to gain color to his cheeks, grinned back. “Maybe when no one is looking,” 

Laughing airily, Roy leaned back in his seat. They sat in comfortable silence for the rest of the ride, which wasn’t too long. Jason had spent the remainder of their time on the bus looking out the window with an almost longing look. Roy guessed growing up in a literal cave would make one yearn for the outside world.

Once they arrived at the zoo, the children boarded off the bus after Mrs. Ling, and then the parents followed suit. Mrs. Ling went around to each parent and handed them two pieces of paper. On one, was a map of the zoo with a line dictating the order that each group would be seeing the animals. On the other paper, was a list of names for roll call.

When Roy was handed his papers, he passed the list of names to Jason while he memorized the path they were supposed to follow. As Jason called the names of the kids in their group, they all moved to gather in front of the two men.

Roy was a little disappointed at the fact that Lian wasn’t in their group. The school had split the kids from their parents to avoid any sort of potential favoritism. Roy could understand that since he would definitely be guilty of favoritism, but that didn’t stop him from being bummed about it. 

“Everyone’s here,” Jason said, tucking the list into his back pocket. Roy nodded and smiled at the kids. 

“Alright, everyone! Our first stop is the lion! You all ready?” He called to their group and the kids responded with various levels of excitement. And a few snickers paired with comments whispered into ears. Kids these days.

Roy lead the way to the lion, Jason following right behind him to his left, and the kids behind him. When the lion was in view, Roy could hear a few gasps from the crowd of children. He moved aside so they could run-up to the exhibit and see. He smiled fondly when he noticed Jason navigating through their group so he could read the plaque on lions.

One of the kids, a little girl who was just a tad bit smaller than Lian with lighter skin, tugged on the bottom of Jason’s jacket. Roy didn’t hear what she said, due to the murmur that was hovering around the kids, but Jason smiled at her and Roy could see his lips move as he read aloud. 

Soon enough, the murmur died down, and it was just Jason reading to the crowd. When he finished with the paragraph, he visibly noticed Roy watching him and averted his eyes with a small smile.

Roy looped around the other side of the cluster of kids and looked into the exhibit. He wouldn’t lie, even being a grown man, seeing a living lion was cool as hell. He looked back at Jason out the corner of his eye and caught the younger man looking back. They both looked away with matching twinkles in their eyes. 

The rest of the trip went similarly. The kids would follow Roy to where they needed to go, then Jason would read about the animals they were seeing. Some of the kids would even ask Jason questions and he answered as best he could. In another life, Roy could see Jason being a teacher, or, wow, even a father . Jason easily handled the kids. Roy was a little jealous, to be honest, but that feeling was under tons of layers of admiration. 

When all the groups merged back together for lunch, Lian ran up to Roy with one of the brightest smiles he had ever seen her wear. 

“Cha! I saw the bears!” She squealed and began giggling when Roy lifted her up. 

“Yeah? Did you fight them?” He asked, causing a few heads to turn their way.

Lian’s smile grew. “Yep! And I won! I got a scar to prove it!” 

She cheerily held up her arm, which now had a tiny scrape on it. Roy looked at it with a critical gaze. It wasn’t bleeding or bruising, so Lian had probably just tripped and scraped a layer of skin off. Nothing to worry about, he’d clean it when they got home.

Roy whistled. “That looks like it hurt. How much did you cry?” He teased.

Lian scoffed at him and started squirming, so Roy set her down. “None at all!” She declared, then ran up to Jason to reiterate what she had just said to Roy. While the other two were preoccupied, Roy walked over to Mrs. Ling to get their lunches. 

“I’m sorry we don’t have an extra lunch for your partner,” she said, which kinda freaked Roy out a bit because he had never heard her sound genuinely apologetic before. Well, at least not to him. “Earlier notice would have been helpful,” Yep there it was. The backhanded comment.

Roy took the lunches Mrs. Ling offered to him with a strained smile. He wasn’t perfect, but damn would he like a break from people implying that he sucked. “You know me. Opposite of helpful. I’ll just give Jay my lunch, so don’t you worry about us.” He assured.

Mrs. Ling looked skeptical but kept any further comments to herself. Roy was thankful for that. He made his way back over to Lian and Jason, who had taken seats on the ground and were animatedly talking about the zoo animals. Roy sat across from them, forming a small triangle, and held out the brown paper bags for them to take. 

“I think it’s turkey and cheese,” He said. “But maybe ham. Half the fun is not knowing what you’ll get until you bite into it. There’s always an apple and a carton of milk though, so you have that reliability.” 

Before Roy was even finished talking, Lian had already torn the wrapping off her sandwich and taken a big bite of it. “It’s ham!” She said with a mouthful of mashed meat.

“It’s ham,” Roy reiterated. 

Jason nodded and took everything out of the paper bag before setting them atop it like it was a plate. He glanced at Roy. “Where’s yours?” 

“Oh, you know...” Roy trailed off. He was hungry, sure, but he figured Jason needed to eat more. Of course, he was only basing that off the fact that Jason was younger and slightly bigger than him. He was at his prime, so he should be eating right. Roy didn’t want to voice this though, too afraid of being accused of coddling. 

Lian blinked up at the two men, eyes dashing back and forth between them. Then, her eyes dropped to the food in front of Jason. An invisible lightbulb flicked to life above her head and she cooed. “Aww, cha, that’s really nice of you!”

Jason turned to her, obviously confused. Instead of offering any explanation, she took another bite of her sandwich. At a loss, he looked at Roy again, then down at his food, then back at Roy. 

Roy saw the realization cross Jason’s face. So, Roy turned his head up towards the sky and whistled innocently. “The weather is awfully nice, isn’t it? I heard a cold front is coming in.”

“Roy,” Jason said.

“Oh! We need to go shopping for new jackets, Lian hit a growth spurt last spring.”

“Roy,” Jason tried again, this time holding half the sandwich in front of Roy’s face. His eyes crossed trying to focus on it. “Eat,” 

“Jaybird, I already owe you. You don’t have to-” Roy began to protest, but was cut off.

“You don’t owe me anything. Teammates take care of each other, watch each other’s backs, without expecting anything in return. So, take half the sandwich before I shove the whole thing down your throat.” 

Pouting, Roy took the sandwich half. “Fine, but you have to eat the apple.” 

Jason huffed out a laugh. “Sure thing, dad.” 

Lian giggled and snorted up milk, causing her to laugh more. Roy followed suit, although he tried not to. He’d done the same thing so many times though, it was hard not to find it funny. Even Jason started chuckling, but also had the sense to grab the napkins that were in his bagged lunch and start dabbing them on the milk stain that now doned Lian’s overalls. 

Roy watched Jason clean up Lian, and how she thanked him, voice still airy with laughter. He felt himself smile, the same smile he had when he first met Lian, and when the brunettes both looked to him again, asking what he thought about the zoo, he felt the smile grow even more. 

Chapter Text

Roy wiped sweat from his brow before using one of the hair ties around his wrist to tie his hair back. Then he placed his hat back atop his head. It was Saturday, and instead of doing something super fun, like going to the park with Lian or out to lunch with Dinah, he was working on fixing some poor man’s tractor.

The man’s name happened to be Leslie. Leslie’s family had owned this farm for years, and, Roy learned, were one of the main suppliers for the local supermarket Roy shopped at. Weird how he lived in Star City for so long but didn’t even know where his food came from. He supposed that was just because he never really questioned it before.

Leslie’s tractor wasn’t broken per se, just incomplete. Not really incomplete either. It just didn’t have some of the final touches put on it, so it wouldn’t start right. Apparently, that was so that people couldn’t just drive off with the tractors from wherever people buy tractors from.

The specific store Leslie got his tractor from was supposed to add in the final parts after purchase, but whoever sold Leslie the vehicle must've forgotten that part of their job. After a lengthy conversation with the store owner, Roy had everything sorted out. 

The tractor place was going to cover the expenses of paying Roy as long as Leslie didn’t bring this incident up in any way to harm the company. Leslie accepted the deal, with Roy’s consent, and then profusely apologized for making him come out so far.

Roy waved him off, promising that it was alright. Since then, Roy had been out at the barn working. The manual for the tractor was a little more complicated than necessary, but he was making progress nonetheless. He may have been working for around two hours when Leslie came back out with a glass of sweet tea.

“Sorry again,” Leslie said, holding out the glass. Roy gave a thankful smile before taking a big gulp.

“Hey, I’m getting paid. No need to apologize, this just means more food on my girl’s plate.” Explained Roy.

Leslie looked at him in interest while taking a seat on a haybale. “You got a girlfriend back in the city?” 

Roy laughed and shook his head. He leaned against the tractor and took another sip of his tea before speaking again. “No. A daughter. Her mom left a long while ago, so it’s just us two.” 

“I’m sorry to hear that,” Leslie said sympathetically. “But in that case, I’m glad I was able to get you good pay today. You seem like an honest man.” 

“That’s really nice of you to say, Mister Varner.” 

“Please, Leslie is fine.” 

“Thank you, Leslie.” 

Leslie decided to stay outside with Roy while he finished working, only going back inside to fetch some water bottles. They chatted while he worked, mostly about mechanics. Leslie knew his way around some machinery, but with a swell of pride, Roy could tell that he knew more than the farmer. 

He learned that Leslie was a married man, which made sense since he was a few years older than Roy and a lot of people are married by that age, and that he didn’t have any kids. His sister had kids though, and Leslie planned on passing the farm on down to them.

Eventually, Roy finished fixing the tractor. He bid his farewells to Leslie and the man promised to get him his money on Monday when the store opened again. Roy packed his things up into his bag and placed it in the trunk on the back of the motorcycle he borrowed from Connor. Helmet on, he kicked back the stand and drove away.

He gave a quick glance to his wristwatch, a present from Oliver from three birthdays ago, and realized that it was past lunchtime. Way past lunchtime. He figured it’d be a good idea to pick up something to eat on the way home.

While riding, he thought about what he had in the upcoming week. Tomorrow was Sunday, and he had no plans other than his duel with Jason, which he needed to actually organize. After all his talk yesterday, it’d be a little embarrassing to lose. He hadn’t seen Jason fight in a long time too, so Roy was at a big disadvantage. Then again, Jason hadn’t seen him fight neither, and Roy liked to think that his fighting had improved on some level. 

Halloween was coming up quickly too, so Roy really needed to start planning with Lian on what her costume was going to be. She had said she was going to be the character in her book, which meant they couldn’t just buy a costume at Party City like they sometimes did. 

Then, right after Halloween was his birthday. He didn’t have any specific plans for that, but he was sure Dinah and Ollie would invite him and Lian over for dinner or something. Later in November, was Thanksgiving. Roy had never really liked Thanksgiving, nor had he ever celebrated it until he was adopted and brought to Star City.

The Navajos, along with other native tribes, used to spend Thanksgiving Day mourning. Hell, they even called it “Mourning Day.” Roy participated in the grieving, of course. With an absent mother and deceased father, he wasn’t short on reasons to be upset, so when he was brought to the city and greeted with a giant turkey, he was more than confused. 

He could remember how stiff his first Thanksgiving was. Oliver had noticed his unease and pulled him aside to ask what was wrong. Roy had explained the tradition he had been living with and watched Oliver’s features change from curious to regretful. At first, Roy thought Oliver was going to tell him off, say that Thanksgiving was supposed to be a time to be happy, but instead, Ollie adjusted to what Roy was used to. 

They still ate and said what they were thankful for, but also took time away from the celebration, and decorations and football to reminisce about things lost. That’s how Thanksgiving was for the rest of Roy’s stay with Oliver, and that was how he and Lian celebrated now. 

Once December hits, Roy would have to get Ollie a birthday present, and then Christmas presents for everyone. He’d have to start saving up. A lot.

Clearing the thoughts from his head, Roy pulled into Big Belly Burger’s drive-through. While he usually liked making dinner for Lian, some days were just days for fast food. Not that his daughter was complaining about eating something unhealthy, but still. 

He ordered three burgers with fries, and once he had the food, he tucked it in the trunk with everything else and started driving home. Right now, Connor was babysitting Lian. Roy would’ve asked Mia instead, seeing as she enjoyed being around kids and Connor was still a little weary to it, but the blonde girl was off working at the children’s shelter that Oliver owned. Roy was actually supposed to go talk to them sometime soon about the dangers of drugs.

Pulling up to his apartment complex, Roy climbed off his borrowed bike and unpacked everything from the trunk. He slung his tool bag over his shoulder and grabbed the bag of food before clambering his way up the stairs. He could’ve used the elevator, but he was planning on going on patrol tonight, and it wouldn’t hurt to get some stretching in. 

Knocking on the door, Roy called, “Connie! I’m home.” To which Connor opened the door to reveal just how disheveled he looked. Roy let out a laugh and moved past him into the apartment. Setting the paper bag of fast food on the kitchen island, Roy called again to Lian, who stumbled out her room with a wide grin. 

She charged right at Roy, running into him and causing him to let out a quiet “oof.”

“Cha!” She began, “Connor showed me how to do origami!” 

“Origami?” Roy asked, setting a hand in Lian’s hair and looking at the other man. “I didn’t know you knew how to do that.”

Connor gave a shrug and closed the apartment door. While he walked over to the island, he said, “I learned a few years ago and we didn’t have anything else to do,” 

Roy picked up his daughter and gave Connor an easy smile. “Well, thank you for teaching her something new. I got you a burger and some fries. You’re welcome to stay and eat. And your bike is out back.” 

“I actually have some things I have to do,” Connor explained. “Sorry.” 

“Hey, no, it’s alright. Maybe some other time. But, look, I hate to ask, but could you maybe watch Lian again for like an hour tomorrow? Pretty please?” 

Lian scrunched her nose at him. “What do you have to do tomorrow?” 

“I promised Jay that we’d fight. Like how me and Ollie spar sometimes. Nothing to worry about, sweetheart.” 

“‘Jay?’” Asked Connor. “Who’s Jay?” 

“An old friend,” Roy quickly said just as Lian inhaled a breath of air, no doubt about to say something wildly incorrect that would raise more questions. He wasn’t blind to his daughter’s antics, nor how much she seemed to like Jason. She couldn’t blame her though. The man was charming after all.

“An old friend,” Connor repeated. “Well alright. I’m supposed to be working around the Quiver tomorrow. Errands for dad and whatnot, and I don’t mind if Lian comes and hangs out.”

“That’s perfect actually!” Roy cheered. “Me and Jay can fight in Ollie’s rink down there. If it won’t bother you, of course.” 

“Not at all,” Connor assured, taking Lian and Roy’s food out the Big Belly Burger bag and leaving his own food still in it. “I’ll see you two tomorrow. Just text me a time before then so I can get ready.” 

“Sure thing!” Roy said at the same time Lian called, “Bye Uncle Connie!” 

Connor left with his food and a wave.

A beat of silence passed. 

“So,” Roy began. “Are you going to show me your origami?” 

Lian immediately began squirming to be let down, then ran off into her room, eyes glowing with excitement. When she returned, she had an armful of what looked like a mix of cranes, flowers, and butterflies. 

“Connor said that I could use watercolors to paint them and make them super pretty.” She placed all the pieces of paper onto the coffee table in the living room, then began organizing them. “I think they’d be really good for Christmas presents. I could write happy notes in them for different people!” 

Roy smiled and brought their food over to the table, taking a seat on the worn-out couch. “That’s a great idea, Lian! Something straight from the heart.” 

“Do you really think so?” Lian asked with uncertainty. Her head was downcast towards the origami, and if not for the fact that Roy did the same thing when he wasn’t sure, he’d think she was just looking at her creations. He knew better though.

“Hell yeah, I do. And don’t tell anyone I said a bad word in front of you.” He paused when Lian giggled. “It really is a sweet idea. I can’t think of a single person who wouldn’t appreciate it.” 

“Thanks, cha,” Lian said with a small smile.

Roy kissed her head then ruffled her hair. “Anytime, sweetheart.” 

That night, Roy helped Lian set up a pillow fort in front of the T.V. He had to push the coffee table against the wall, and turn the couch around, but in the end, the fort was pretty damn cool. The floor was covered with the comforter that Roy pulled out whenever it started to get cold. It was a hideous lime green color, and also a gift from Oliver. 

The top of the fort was a thin sheet from Lian’s room. It hung down from the back of the couch and was pinned to the edges of their box television with some heavy-duty duct tape Roy had lying around in his room. It was a little unstable, but it would work for the night. 

They turned on the T.V. and plugged in their VCR. Yep. Not only did they watch things on DVD, but they also had a VCR. What could he say? Roy liked retro. 

So with the VCR booted up, Lian picked an old Disney live-action movie, and they curled up in their make-shift fort. Happily munching away on her burger, Lian’s eyes stayed glued to the movie, despite the fact that she had seen it before.

Thinking back on it, Lian had always been fascinated with works of fiction. When she was a newborn, Roy knew that Jade would read her folk stories from Vietnam, and the once Lian lived with Roy, he’d read her good ol’ American classics like Mother Goose and Humpty Dumpty. Alright, he’d admit that Jade’s stories were a little cooler, but when Lian got old enough, Roy swapped over to reading actual books to Lian, usually as bedtime stories. 

Lian had an inclination towards grim fantasy, which worried Roy a bit, but not enough to take her collection of scary stories from her. Besides, her second favorite genre was romance. Assuming she got her spooky liking from Jade, that would mean Lian got her love for romance from Roy, which made him more than happy. So, he’d let his daughter continue reading whatever she wanted.

The movie continued on and before the twenty-minute mark, their food was long gone. Roy had leaned back on the pillow stack in the back of their fort and pulled out his phone. He was scrolling through his calendar when a notification popped up.

Unknown Number

wat time we fight 2mrrow?

 

Roy stared at the message, absolutely appalled by the dialect the sender used. He mulled through his brain, trying to think of what manic he gave his number to. The only person he recently gave the number to was-

Jason.

 

Roy texted back.

Why the hell do you text like a teenager from the 90s?

 

His phone dinged a minute later.

born in 90s. n hav flip phne

 

Oh. Right. Flip phone. Roy forgot about that. He sent a message back explaining the babysitting situation and their fighting location. Jason told him that as early as possible would work for him, so they agreed on eleven in the morning. Roy would need to go to bed on time tonight. He supposed Star City could go one more night without Red Arrow. He shot Oliver a quick message explaining that he was staying in, and then Connor one to tell him the time of the meetup.

Looking at Lian, he noticed her head lulling to the side. “Hey, honey.” He called softly. “Ready for bed?” 

She turned her head to look back at Roy. She nodded, her eyes nearly closed. Instead of climbing out the fort and going to her room, she crawled over to Roy and collapsed on top of his chest. He smiled and ran a hand through her hair while pulling up the spare blanket to cover them.

“Goodnight, sweetheart.” He said, pressing a kiss to her head.

A quiet “goodnight” was echoed back against his shirt.

Roy made sure to set an alarm on his phone, before closing his eyes and allowing sleep to overtake him.

Chapter Text

Gasping sharply, Roy’s eyes flew open. For a short, panicked moment, he stared at the top of the pillow fort that he and Lian had made. He realized that the weight on his chest wasn’t cutting off his breathing, rather, it was his daughter sleeping soundly. He could feel her tiny puffs of breath flow out of her. He focuses on that pattern until his heart rate calmed down.

He blinked slowly and patted around for his phone. Clutching it, he held it up and pressed the home button. The bright screen made him cringe and squint his eyes. Turning the brightness down, he was able to see that it was almost nine. With a sigh, he dropped the phone and carefully worked on pulling Lian off of him.

She made a discontent noise in her sleep, and the sound made Roy frown. He continued shifting though until Lian was laying atop a pillow that Roy had replaced himself with. He navigated out the small pillow fort and tiredly made his way over to the kitchen. He flicked on the light over the sink, the same place a small window that overlooked the city was. The view wasn’t anything spectacular. Roy had been on the roof before, so he knew what a real view looked like.

He was almost disappointed that he didn’t go on patrol, it had been almost a week since his last roam around the city and he was starting to feel flabby because of it. Of course, there was no real difference in his weight. He was just being nagged by the restless feeling of not pulling back the string on his bow and hearing the satisfying sound of an arrow whizzing past.

He decided that tonight he had to go patrol. No matter what. He was sure Lian would understand.

Roy dragged himself over to the coffee pot and began brewing himself a pot. The smell soon filled the room and he felt the last jitters from his dream fade away. He couldn’t recall the events of the dream, aside from the overall feeling of dread and fear. Some nights were just like that he supposed. 

At least he had a lot to look forward to today. He had his fight with Jason and then the rest of the day was free. He was thinking movies with Lian, in an actual theater, and taking her out for dinner wherever she liked. She had been doing really good at home and in school recently, so she deserves some recognition.

The coffee finished brewing, and Roy fixed himself a mug. He watched the sunrise while drinking it, and just enjoyed the serenity that came with being the only soul awake. The sky was painted in pinks and oranges, carefully caressing the rising sun. Funnily enough, Roy wasn’t really a fan of warm colors. He much rathered cooler colors, but alas, his hair was his hindrance and he was never to escape his sunset scenes look. 

Cool colors decorated his living room. The walls a soft off blue and the floors made of hardwood with a rug center place in the living room that matched the walls. Decorating said walls were pictures of Lian and Roy. Other pictures had Jade in them and some had Roy’s old teams and the Arrows. It was really homey.

Roy made sure that none of his superhero gadgets and whatnot were visible if anyone were to wander into his apartment. The crossbow behind the door only noticeable if you were to look, and Lian’s secret safe room had it’s entrance in her room behind a well-placed toy chest. 

To the outside eye, the Harper apartment was a normal apartment decorated with photographs and blues. The complete opposite of what one would expect of the self-proclaimed rugged and charming Red Arrow. 

Roy sat aside the mug of half drank coffee and began making breakfast. He figured today could be an easy day, so eggs it was. The small boost of protein definitely wouldn’t hurt in his fight against Jason. Roy didn’t doubt that he could win a fight against the other man, but, well, Jason was more built than Roy. By brute strength alone, Jason would probably have the upper hand. Roy would have to be crafty if he wanted to win.

Roy jumped slightly when he heard a quiet yawn come from behind him, followed by a little head bumping into his side. “Hungry,” Lian said sleepily, causing Roy to let out a soft chuckle.

“I’ll get started on breakfast then. Any requests?” He asked, downing the rest of his coffee and placing the mug in the sink. Lian shook her head and padded back towards the living room. Then promptly face-planted onto the couch. Roy watched her with amused eyes before turning to the refrigerator and getting out eggs to make omelets. 

Lian didn’t stir until breakfast was completely done. Exactly when it was done. As soon as Roy had placed her egg onto her plate, she was seated at the island with a fork in hand. He didn’t even know how she got the fork since the drawer was just a foot away from himself and he didn’t hear her open it.

“You’re moving around quieter,” Roy observed and placed Lian plate in front of her. He set his own plate down too and took a seat across from his daughter.

Lian didn’t hesitate to start eating, but for once, she did swallow before responding. Roy certainly didn’t teach her table manners, so he wondered where she got that from. His guess was Connor. “Connie was teaching me to walk quietly,”

Yep. Okay. So it was Connor who was mentoring his daughter. To be frank, he sorta rathered it be Connor out of everyone else. He was a good kid and Roy trusted him. He didn’t want to be rude, but if Dinah or Mia mentored Lian, she would be more rambunctious than Roy could handle. And Ollie was just old. Roy still cracked up at half the old slang that fell from his father’s lips.

“Now why in the world would he do that?” Roy asked. He was perfectly okay with it, but he was still curious.

“It’s a surprise,” Lian answered simply. Roy’s curiosity shot up.

“I’m guessing that also means it’s a secret,”

“Yep!” 

Well, alright then.

When they finished breakfast, Roy got to work on washing the dishes while Lian brushed her hair and got changed. She emerged from her bedroom with a little bag too, saying that it had a journal and book in it in case she got bored.

Roy, on the other hand, didn’t bring anything with him. He knew that the little rink at the Quiver had hand wrappings and towels and whatever else he might need for his little shindig. Roy pulled out his phone and sent a quick text with the Quiver address to Jason. 

When the Harpers arrived, Connor was outside waiting on them. He had a tired look in his eye but smiled nonetheless. Roy figured he was sleepy from patrolling, but that thought changed as soon as an angry teenage voiced yelled his name. 

“Roy William Harper Junior!” Came Mia’s voice from inside the Quiver. No sooner did she emerge from its entrance with a stern look. “You said you’d call! And what did you do? Not that!” 

“It’s only been like three days!” Roy defended, moving behind Lian while she ooh -ed, claiming that he was in trouble.

“You better have a good excuse,” Mia crossed her arms and cocked her hip. Behind her, Connor watched on, not offering any help to his brother. Traitor. Roy thought.

“I...forgot?” Shrugged Roy. Apparently that wasn’t a good answer because Mia charged at him. Roy quickly knelt down behind Lian and Connor stepped in to hold Mia back. Just then, another voice spoke up.

“Glad it isn’t just my family that fights like dogs,” Jason said, stepping outside. Roy felt every nerve in his body light up at once at the sight of the other man. That ecstatic feeling shifted into confusion and Roy looked to Mia. 

Catching his eye, Mia smirked at Roy. “Me and your precious Jay are best buds now. Isn’t that right, Jay?” 

Walking closer, Jason rolled his eyes. “I told you that name’s reserved for Little Miss Lian and her cha.” He squatted in front of Lian. “Hey, kiddo. Ready to see me beat up your dad?” 

“Nope! Cha’s gonna win. He always does!” Lian yelled confidently. She turned to Roy and started shoving on his shoulder. “Tell ‘em, cha!” 

“My money is on Pete,” Mia commented.

“I have to agree,” Connor started. “If not by skill, Peter is built bigger than you, Roy. I’ll still root for you though.” 

“You’re my favorite sibling again, Connie. I love you.” Roy finally spoke up.

Connor wrinkled his nose. “Don’t make it weird,” Then he walked inside. Mia followed behind him, then Lian. Roy and Jason lingered for a minute.

“How’d you clear things up with Mia?” Roy asked. 

“I told her my name is Peter. I’m on a military leave right now and can’t let anyone know that. She tried asking questions, but I told her it was all secret stuff that I couldn’t disclose.” Jason explained. “I said we met in Qurac and gave each other bird nicknames.”

“So, that’s why she didn’t question me calling you “Jay” again. Short for bluejay I’m guessing?” Roy said quieter as the approached.

Jason grinned at him. “Yep, and you’re my mockingbird. Try not to blow my cover, okay?”

“Dude. When have I ever blown anything ever?” Roy asked matching Jason’s grin.

Jason fixed him with an amused look and paused in the doorway before saying, “Do you want me to go with the Do you need a list? line or the obvious dick joke you just walked into?” 

Roy thought for a moment. “Surprise me,” he decided and winked.

With a laugh, Jason walked inside. “Consider it done, mockingbird.”

Roy brushed past Jason and lead him over to where the rink was. Oliver had added the rink around the time Dinah joined their little team. Since she did so much hands-on combat, Oliver presented it to her as a present. Needless to say, she appreciated the chance to knock her boys around in a place where they wouldn’t get too hurt.

Connor and Lian were off at the far end of the Quiver messing around with some of the costumes back there, and Mia had moved over to the range and was practicing archery. Roy figured they’d come over to the rink once the fight got going.

“Should we wear guards?” Jason asked, climbing between the ropes and onto the matt. “Or are we holding back?”

“Guards wouldn’t hurt. We can forego cups though, just don’t aim for my gonads. Gloves or wraps?” Roy asked, walking over to a shelf that held things for the rink. 

“How about bandages, but instead of punching, we...pin?”

Roy froze and looked over his shoulder. Slowly, a grin overtook his face. “So, no knockouts, just pinning?” Roy eyeballed Jason. If they were going with pinning, he figured that Jason would have an upper hand through his weight. It didn’t take a genius to know that Jason was a lot of muscle- like a lot - and through his years of experience fighting, Roy knew how heavy six-foot of it could be.

However, if Roy could somehow knock Jason off balance, then he’d fall harder, and if he was fast enough, Roy could pin him down easily. He’d had to watch out for Jason’s legs though. He used to rely on them more than anything when he was Robin- always jumping around and kicking baddies.

“Some punching, sure, but avoid the face,” Jason explained. “Sides and torso are fine- legs and arms too, No playing dirty though.”

“Awh, but I love hair pulling and biting,” Roy said, trying to pull it off as a joke, but Jason gave him a look and that look saw right through Roy. Roy grabbed the wraps and mouthguards, a new one for Jason of course, he wasn’t going to let him use someone else’s, and brought them over to the rink.

“We can save that for another time. With fewer kids around.” Jason promised.

“I’m going to hold you to that,”

“You could hold me to more than that,” Jason’s face was slightly flushed and Roy wouldn’t be surprised if he looked the same. The rush of blood wasn’t really from embarrassment, more so from the adrenaline that Roy felt when Jason was involved. Roy knew he could flirt, it was pretty easy for him, but there was just something about Jason that made his heart beat faster.

Roy leaned closer, across the ropes of the rink. He was about to rebut and continue their obvious flirting, craving that continued adrenaline, but he jolted back when an arrow whizzed right between their faces and stuck in a wall adjacent to them.

“As much as I love watching you too make bedroom eyes at each other, and trust me I do love it, I was promised a fight.” Mia declared loudly. Roy internally thanked Connor for bringing Lian out of the room until the fight.

“You weren’t promise jack, squirt.” Jason teased. “The only one promised anything here was Roy, and he was promised to be laid flat.”

Mia walked closer, her ponytail waving behind her. “Well, it doesn’t seem like he’s making any moves. I wouldn’t mind taking his place, you know.”

Jason shook his head laughing. “Sorry, Speedy. You aren’t my type.”

“Then I feel sorry for you,”

Roy watched the pair banter back and forth, confused about how they became such quick friends after their last encounter. Then again, Mia and Jason both had that spitfire don’t-take-shit-from-anyone type of attitude. Hell, they may have had more in common than Roy had with either of them. Suddenly, a bit of panic settled in the back of Roy’s throat. Jason was still pretty young, what if he was closer to Mia’s age? What if they really hit it off? 

“Jason, how old are you?”

The pair both looked at him, Mia muttering under her breath, “He literally just said I wasn’t his type,”

Jason’s easy grin turned impish. “Well, my sweet mockingbird, I turned the ripe age of twenty-four just last month. Why are you asking? Worried you’re going to lose to a kid?”

“I’d hardly call you a kid,” Roy grumbled, due to both the fact that he was being teased and the fact that he just barely missed Jason’s birthday.

“I definitely wouldn’t call you a kid,” Mia added.

“Alright!” Roy clapped his hands together. “How about we get this show on the road?”

Jason’s grin softened. “Sure. Help me with my wraps?”

Mia gagged. “Okay, call me over when you two are ready to brawl. All the gooey stuff was cute at first, but now I’m just jealous.”

With a wave, she walked past them, over to where her arrow was still lodged in the wall.

“Here’s give me your hand,” Roy said. Jason held his hand over the ropes and watched as Roy carefully wrapped the bandages around his fists. He wouldn’t admit it out loud, but that small action nearly sent Jason into cardiac arrest. The last time he felt this much electricity coursing through him was when he was being interrogated. Obviously, he preferred this situation much more.

Switching to Jason’s other hand, Roy wondered aloud. “This almost reminds me of when I used to have to tie Lian’s shoes for her. God, she’s grown so much.” Jason could see the almost sad look in Roy’s downcast gaze, but it was covered with so much pride that Jason felt his own heart swell with it too. 

“She’s brilliant,” Jason said, then hurriedly added, “Sorry. Well, not sorry. You’ve just done amazing with raising her. Only nine and you can already tell she’s destined for something great.”

Roy lifted his eyes to meet Jason’s. Jason was a little surprised to find them glossy like Roy was close to crying. He supposed Roy had always been soft-hearted, but this was a whole new level of endearing.

“Thank you,” Roy said, clearing his throat, “You’re gonna make me feel kinda bad for kicking your ass.”

Smiling, Jason lightly punched Roy in the arm. “In your dreams, Harper. Give me your hands.”

Roy obliged and Jason wrapped his hands. Once done, Roy handed him the new mouthguard and he placed it in his mouth. He grinned and stepped back. Roy called to the others then placed his own guard in.

Jason moved over to his side of the rink and Roy climbed in between the ropes to stand opposite of him. The first one over was Lian. She yelled, “Good luck, cha! You’re gonna need it,” To which Roy whipped his head around to look at her with betrayal.

Mia was second over and in her hand was a dry-erase board with “Round 1” written on it. Roy rolled his eyes at it. Finally, Connor walked over and pulled up a few chairs for himself and the others. 

“You guys ready?” Mia asked. Roy and Jason both gave her a nod. She stood up on one of the chairs Connor had brought and held up the board. “Round one!” she yelled, then whistled. As soon as she did, Jason charged Roy.

Roy wasn’t bad at close combat; Oliver had taught him all the basics growing up. Then, as he got older, Roy learned more techniques for when fighting in close quarters. All of that practicing and training didn’t undermine the fact that he was his strongest from long range.

So, when he was charged, Roy immediately went on the defensive. He blocked whatever hits Jason sent his way, and wondered if it was so easy to do so because Jason was holding back. He guessed that was the case, and that the younger man didn’t want to seriously hurt Roy.

He was definitely going to leave some bruises though. Goddamn.

Eventually, Roy was able to push back and switch to offensive. Jason flashed him a wild grin, and not a second later he was sprawled out on the matt. Just as promised.

Before he could get himself up, he was being held down by over two-hundred pounds of cocky little shit.

“Pinned,” Jason remarked, pressing his hands harder down on Roy’s biceps, effectively keeping Roy from moving his arms.

Roy shot him a mildly annoyed look before sighing in good nature. “Ever see the Lion King ?” He asked, starting to grin.

Jason quirked a brow. “No. Bruce didn’t keep a lot of cartoons around. I mostly read.”

“What?!” Roy squawked. “You haven’t seen the Lion King ? We have to fix that.” After a beat, he continued off track, “How did you knock me down?”

Jason huffed a laugh and sat back, giving Roy room to sit up. “You’ve been slacking on patrol and I was born with natural talent. Put two and two together and...well, you got to see the outcome first hand.”

Roy pouted. “I have very good reasons to skip patrol.”

Lightly brushing his bandaged knuckles against Roy’s cheek in a fake punch, Jason said, “I know. You keep doing what you’re doing. There’s nothing wrong with it.”

“Careful now,” Roy said, catching Jason’s wrist before he completely dropped his hand, “Keep talking to me like that and I might want to keep you forever.”

I guess my fate can’t be too bad if you’re deciding it, ” Jason repeated Roy’s words from a few days ago.

Roy scoffed with a grin, letting his and Jason’s hand finally fall. They stayed touching atop Roy’s thigh. “As if I’d try and decide your life for you.”

Without realizing it, Jason leaned closer. “What if I want to stay?” He whispered, eyes boring into Roy’s.

A throat cleared off to their side. Startled, they both sprang back. Thanks to the fact that Jason was still crouched over Roy’s legs when the redhead jumped back, he ended up falling back onto the matt and knocking Jason off balance, who also fell.

Lian began giggling while Mia doubled over in laughter. Connor shook his head fondly. “If you two want to continue your...intimate conversation, I’ll take the girls.” He offered.

“What?! No! This is like the Hallmark movies I watch with Ollie! I wanna stay!” Mia protested.

“Me too!” Lian agreed. Then asked, “What’s a Hallmark movie?”

Mia pointed a finger at Roy, who was still laying down, head tilted to see the other three. “You’ve deprived your daughter of some of the best crappy holiday rom-coms in the world! All because you don’t want cable! I have dibs on babysitting her next so I can right your wrongs, you insolent man!”

Aghast, Roy scrambled up. “You can’t corrupt her with Hallmark ! She could get addicted just like her grandfather!”

Still on the ground, but now sitting, Jason piped up, “Bruce used to watch those,”

All eyes turned to him. Jason grinned a mischievous grin, mind already racing with embarrassing things about Batman to share with his new-found friends.

Chapter Text

Life was slow, but life was good. It had been a couple weeks now since Jason rolled into town. The wind was crisp with October air and all the local cafes smelt like pumpkin spice. Roy even finally busted out his flannels. One of the best parts about the city now though, was that crime had been surprisingly low. 

Out on his patrols, Roy had run into absolutely nothing. Hell, if it was December, he would’ve called it a Christmas miracle. He supposed Halloween miracles could be a thing, he just usually imaged those involving more candy. 

He had run into the Red Hood a few more times since he’d shown up in Star. Twice to be exact. The first time, Roy was just trailing him from a distance, curious about what the intriguing anti-hero was doing. The a-hole gave him the slip, although not before leading Roy straight to a weapons deal that was going down. 

The second time, Roy had the guy at arrow point, sure Red Hood had drawn his pistols just like the very first time he and Roy collided, but Roy didn’t waver. The Red Hood cocked his head to the side in a way Roy assumed meant that he was amused. 

Red Hood spun his pistols and placed them back in his holsters, then raised his hands in surrender. Roy walked closer, and slowly lowered his bow. 

The streets have been cleaner since you showed up, ” Roy told him. “ I’m supposed to take you in to Green Arrow. ” 

An electronic crackle came from the helmet, then a voice said, “ But you won’t. I’m helping more than your whole team combined has.

Roy scowled. “ It’s not about who does more. It’s about getting off the fucking couch and doing something in the first place.

The Red Hood shrugged. “ I suppose. You can’t deny my results though.

Maybe not. Which is why I’m not turning you in. I want to work together. ” The same crackle came through again, and Roy realized it was a laugh. He shoved Red Hood in the chest. “ I’m serious. We share intel. Occasional patrolling together if we cross paths.

What’s the catch?

No killing,

Surprisingly, Red Hood had agreed. So now Roy is kinda partners with a murderer, but hey, everyone deserves the benefit of the doubt. He was going to have to keep their little agreement secret though. At least, he’d have to keep it secret from the Arrows. 

Now, Roy found himself crouched on the roof of one of the many buildings in Star City. He was, again, tailing Red Hood, but at a less obvious distance than the first time. Or at least he thought so. In the alley he was looking down into, Red Hood tilted his helmet back so that the slight glowing eyes were aimed at Roy.

“Red Arrow,” he called in his electronic voice. “It’s a pleasure to see you.”

Figuring if he’s been caught he may as well reveal himself, Roy climbed down the fire escape and stood in front of Red Hood. “Pleasure to see me, huh?”

“You are very nice to look at,”

Roy flushed under his mask. “I’m sure you are too. How about you take off that helmet so I can see?” 

“Nice try, honey. I’m not that easy.” Red Hood remarked, then began walking further into the alley. “There’s a bunch of low life scum hiding out in one of the buildings back here if you’re interested. Been selling drugs to teens and once they’re high, they kidnap ‘em. What do you say? You want in?” He asked, turning to Roy.

“Obviously. But no killing.”

The helmet crackled. “Cute. I’ll abide, but only because I respect you.”

“Respect? Why’s that?” Roy asked, following Red Hood to a back door with a symbol painted on it.

“You’re a good guy. That’s enough.” He knocked on the door, and a few seconds later, a man with a crooked nose opened it. Red Hood waved his hand in greeting before promptly punching the dude square in the face.

He shook his hand then tilted his head towards Roy. “Any adult you see, you take out. Alright, Roytoy?”

Roy sputtered and punched Red Hood’s arm. “Don’t use my name in the field, idiot!”

“You got it. Bedroom only. Set your frequency to ten-forty-oh.” Red Hood said with a crackle and disappeared into the building, leaving a flustered Roy behind.

Taking a deep breath, Roy braced himself and followed the other man into the building. They each took a direction, Roy going right and Red Hood going left. At the turn on his hallway, Roy ran into some stairs. He silently climbed up them and thanked his past self for insulating his shoes. At the top of the stairs was another hallway with doors on either side, closed.

He made it through a few rooms. All of them were empty aside from some run-down furniture that looked ridden with roaches or mites. The thought of all those bugs made Roy’s skin crawl and he shivered before moving on.

Bow drawn, Roy opened the next door. Inside was a boy who couldn’t be more than sixteen. Roy lowered his bow and moved closer. “Hey, you alright?” he asked the boy. He was met with a slight twitch in the boy’s hand and glossy eyes. Frowning, Roy checked the boy’s pulse. It was slow. 

Roy looked around the room and prayed that he wouldn’t find any evidence of opioids. He spotted a bottle under a bedside table and grabbed it. The label had been ripped off, but opening the bottle and looking at the pills inside, Roy recognized it as Xanax. 

Roy tuned into the frequency that Red Hood had told him to. “Hey, Hood. They got prescription drugs and blissed-out teens over here. What’s on your end?”

“BZD. I’m thinking pharmaceuticals might have a hand in this. Do you know any crooked doctors in Star?” Red Hood answered over the earpiece.

“Not specifics, but there are some high-rise fat cats that like to swindle the Gladers for one thing or another. It could be a compounded pharmacy though- there’s a few of those on this side of town. They’re pretty small and go unregulated for the most part.” Roy rambled, digging through a dresser he noticed in the room, finding more prescription bottles with missing labels. “There’s a good bit over here, BZDs that is. They could’ve all been stolen, but there hasn’t been anything on the news about any robberies.”

Roy was met with silence. He was about to ask if Red Hood was okay, maybe a little worried something had happened to the guy when the electronic voice sounded in his ear, sounding a little airy. “Fat cats?”

Roy pinched the bridge of his nose. “Picked that up from the green guy. Ignore it?”

Roy checked the pulse of the boy again, then shined a light in his eyes to check the dilation. He seemed as good as a person high on Xanax could be. When he was standing back up and heading to the door, Red Hood said, “You spend a lot of time with Green Arrow?”

“Sometimes it feels like I don’t spend enough,” Roy admitted, moving on to the room across the hall. Inside was a girl. She looked a little older than the boy but was in the exact same state- her nose dusted with a powder that Roy refused to get too close to. “What about you? You have ties to Batman. What’s your deal?”

“Batman took my life from me,”

Roy stopped. “Vague. Care to explain more?”

“Not particularly,”

“Fair enough. Okay, how about a hobby? What do you like to do aside from beating up drug dealers and shooting rapists between the legs?” Roy asked, and continued searching the rooms. Oddly enough, it seemed that any adults that Red Hood has been expecting had already left, leaving behind a bunch of incapacitated youth in their wake. Roy’s stomach churned at the thought of what kind of person could treat kids like this. 

“I like reading,”

“Yeah?” Roy started. “My daughter loves reading. And I have a friend who’s really into literature. He’s practically a genius in the subject. I might be biased about that though. I don’t know a thing about grammar or whatever.” 

“You sound like you admire your friend a lot,”

Roy chuckled. “You could say that. Hey, are you almost done on that side? I’ve got a total of four kids over here, and while they aren’t in immediate danger, we should still call an ambulance to come pick them up.”

“Already did that, and I’m heading out the building now.”

“The roof or alley?”

“Roof,”

“Cool. Cool. Hold on a sec’ and I’ll meet you up there?”

Roy left the room he was in and made his way to a second staircase that lead to the roof. He opened the access door and was greeted by the sight of Red Hood staring down the edge of the building. Roy watched him for a minute, not really knowing why he wanted to meet back up on the roof.

Red Hood stepped away from the edge and looked at Roy. “I’m not going to change my frequency. If your arrow friends can’t help you, you can give me a call.”

Roy smiled at the implication that they could work together again. “Aww. I knew I was charming, but I didn’t expect to get partner privilege so early. I guess you are that easy, huh?”

“Charming won’t stop me from clocking you,” 

“You wouldn’t want to damage this pretty smile. Be honest.” 

“I’m more comfortable lying. Thank you very much.”

In the streets below, the sound of sirens echoed between the buildings. The dark alley flooded with red flashing lights. Roy looked over the edge and watched the EMTs climb out the ambulance, behind them, a police car followed suit. Red Hood set a hand on his shoulder. “That’s our cue,” Then he turned and grappled to the building across the alley. He walked to the other end of the roof, gave Roy a salute, then disappeared over the edge.

Later that night, Roy called Oliver to report in the drug bust, making sure to avoid saying anything about a certain helmet-clad vigilante. 

Roy had to make up a story about Bill, the hobo, giving him a tip. Roy lied, saying he was following that tip when he came across the drug-filled building. Roy also explained the theory about the pharmaceutical companies' involvement.

Oliver said that he was a little busy with handling the Red Hood issue, which made Roy’s throat dry up, so he couldn’t offer any backup for further investigating. Just when Roy was going to tell him that it was alright, everything was under control and handled, Oliver said he could ask Dinah to help out.

Roy tried to think of a way to get out of having to partner with Dinah- it wasn’t that he didn’t like her- she was technically his legal mom, but acted more like a rad-as-hell older sister, and he loved her to death- but he didn’t doubt that she’d take Hood down the first chance she got.

The same would go for Mia and Ollie as well. Out of his team, the only person Roy though he could easily convince would be Connor, but that was just because he was a lot less hot-headed than the others. What would be hard, is trying to convince him...well, Roy wasn’t sure what he was trying to convince the others. The Red Hood has done a lot of bad for good reasons, that was de facto.

Roy couldn’t figure out why he felt the need to defend the guy.

Heaving a sigh, Roy climbed into his apartment through the window. He peaked into Lian’s room to find her fast asleep, then returned to his own bedroom to rid himself of his Red Arrow suit. He took a quick shower and changed into a loose-fit tank-top and a pair of old sweat pants before climbing into bed. 

He stared up at the ceiling, mulling over all the things he’d done and will do. Soon, as in this week soon, he’d need to take Lian to Goodwill or something to get stuff for her Halloween costume. God, time really does fly when you get older.

Then there was his birthday. Roy glared at the roof, wrinkles forming on his forehead. He was turning thirty. For a moment, he thought about Ollie being fifty-two and pitied the man. Then cleared that thought from his head before he started thinking about what he’d be like at that age. Probably with a full beard and graying hair- he was a little scared of that.

Against his wishes, his adrenaline-filled brain started to think about what Jason would look like at fifty. Roy had to admit that he imagined Jason looking practically the same, maybe with a five o'clock shadow and a few wrinkles around his eyes. He just couldn't imagine the man really looking old.

Of course, then he had to think about what he and Jason would look like in their fifties together. They’d have a nice little place, maybe at the edge of the city, and Lian would come visit all the time. Oliver and Dinah would be too old to travel much, more so Oliver, so he and Jason would go to them instead. Connor and Mia would stay by too, of course.

Roy’s little fantasy world kept expanding, and pretty soon, he let the idea of watching the sunrise with Jason carry him off to sleep.

Chapter Text

Not even twenty-four hours later Dinah was seated across from Roy at a small little table at a small little bar on the edge of Star City. She had just gotten back from one of her rock concerts and was carrying a fine black eye.

“Then he said I don’t care that you’re a lady! You’re a cunt all the same! And I whacked him right in the nose. He toppled like the big dummy he was.” She recalled, taking a sip of her drink. “Then I got the call from Ollie and he said you needed backup.”

“Need might be too strong of a word,” Roy said, twirling the straw around in his water.

“Is that so?” Dinah asked, folding her arms across the table and leaning closer. “Tell me then, how do you plan to investigate this whole drug debacle alone?” 

“I’ve done harder alone. No offense, Dinah, but I didn’t ask for help on this. Ollie just assumed you know?” 

“Well, I’d still like to come along anyways.”

Roy let out a huff. “I won’t stop you,”

“You couldn’t if you tried,” Dinah smirked.

Pulling out a few bills to leave as a tip, Roy stood. “I’m going to patrol again tonight. I’m thinking I’ll go back to the building we busted and see if the cops left anything. Meet there around midnight-ish?” Roy asked.

Dinah nodded before knocking back the rest of her drink. “Sounds good to me. Why are you in a hurry to leave though? Getting too old to hang out with your mom?” She quipped, smirk growing.

Roy wrinkled his nose in distaste. “It’s weird hearing you call yourself my mom. You’re hardly older than me.”

“So flattering,” Dinah pretended to swoon. “Kid, how do you not have a girlfriend yet?”

Roy rolled his eyes and placed his hat atop his head. “Because a lot of my past girlfriends have tendencies to die, and when they come back they usually want some space.”

Dinah winced. “Sore spot?”

Shrugging, Roy said, “It’s gotten better. I really gotta go though. I told Lian we’d go clothes shopping today.” 

Springing from her seat with wide eyes, Dinah asked, “Can I come?”

“Sure. Just let me use the bathroom first.”

Roy didn’t bother checking the stalls in the bathroom when he entered, comfortable enough with the bar to know most of its patrons. Just because he didn’t drink, didn't mean that he couldn’t come here and hang out with friends every now and then. It was his favorite karaoke place after all. 

He pulled out his phone and scrolled through the contacts until his thumb hovered over “Jaybird.” Roy pulled up the contact information and smiled at the picture of Jason and Lian laughing in front of the swings at the park. He called the number and it picked up on the first ring. 

“Roy,” Jason’s voice came through the line. “How’s the meet up?”

“Dinah wants to go shopping with us and she doesn’t know anything about you yet. We’re only about five minutes from the apartment, but I’m sure Dinah brought her bike so we’ll be there pretty fast. We’re going to use the Peter Identity again unless you want to skip out, okay? Explain everything to Lian, please.” Roy rushed out. “Sorry for being curt, but Dinah thinks I just came in here to pee, so I have to hurry. See you soon.” 

Roy hung up, feeling a little guilty for not letting Jason get a word in, but he really didn’t want to deal with a suspicious Dinah. He tucked his phone away, washed his hands, and walked out of the bathroom. 

Dinah was up at the bar, handing their tips to the waitress that serves them. Roy walked over to her. “Ready?”

“Let’s go get my baby some cool clothes,” Dinah grinned and walked towards to door.

“She’s my daughter!” Roy called after her.

The ride back was quick, just like Roy had predicted, and he was anxious the whole elevator ride up. Dinah sent him a few suspicious looks but didn’t comment on anything aside from the lack of elevator music. Once in front of his door, Roy knocked on it. “Lian! I’m back.”

The door opened and they were greeted with Lian’s wide smile and Jason’s smaller one.

“Cha!” Lian exclaimed and threw her arms around his middle in a hug. He laughed and hugged her back. “Peter and I were looking online to see what the store has and some of the shirts and stuff will work for my costume!”

“That’s great, sweetheart! We’ll go ahead and pick up stuff for that while we’re out. And guess what! Granny Dinah is coming.” Roy leaned down to whisper but made sure his voice was still loud enough so everyone could hear him. “That means you can buy a whole lot since she has Ollie’s credit card.”

Lian giggled and turned her attention to Dinah.

“Hey, cupcake,” Dinah greeted her, “Ready to blow grandpa’s money?”

Lian cheered and ran off to her room to grab her shoes when Roy told her to do so.

Jason stepped up to Dinah, already aware of Roy’s lack of introduction skills, and held out his hand. “I’m Peter,”

Dinah gave him a wide smile paired with a firm grasp. “Dinah Queen,” she introduced.

“You don’t always have to add on “Queen” when you introduce yourself, you know,” Roy remarked causing the woman to turn to him.

“Can I not express the happiness I feel about my eloping at every chance possible?” Dinah asked, pointing to the wedding band around her finger.

“Not when you rub it in,” Roy pouted. “Some of us are hopeless romantics.”

Jason quirked a brow at him and mouthed “What about me?” over Dinah’s shoulder, to which Roy flushed at, then causing Dinah to give him a similar look. She looked back at Jason who shrugged nonchalantly. 

“Shoes are on!” Lian yelled, running back into the living room. The three adults turned their attention to her.

“Well then, are we all ready?” Roy asked. Everyone nodded.

The walk to Goodwill wasn’t that long, only about twenty minutes on foot. Sure, they could’ve gotten a taxi, but walking was so much more fun.

Roy and Lian lead the way, the latter on the former’s back and singing a song that Jade had taught her when she was little. Roy was humming along, still not confident about his pronunciation of the words.

Jason and Dinah chatted quietly behind them.

“So, Peter, how long have you been in Star City?” Dinah asked, hands tucked in the pockets of her leather jacket.

Jason, who funnily enough was also wearing a leather jacket, responded with, “A month and a half I think,”

“And you’ve already gotten that close with Roy in that time?”

Jason shook his head with a grin. “I’ve known him for years,” he explained. “We met in Qurac.”

“That’s awfully far from the states. What were you guys doing out there?” 

“Ex-military. And it’s alright. I know Roy is a superhero.”

Dinah sighed in relief. “Thank God. The whole secret identity stuff is too annoying to keep up with, I swear.”

Jason chuckled. “I bet,” 

Finally arriving at the store, the four of them walked inside, Roy setting Lian down. Dinah took charge of the group, claiming to know the most about fashion- which Roy vehemently denied. “Wearing grunge doesn't mean you have an eye for what looks good,” he told her.

To which she responded, “Says the guy who wears a jumpsuit every day and bright red every night. I don’t want my granddaughter looking like a clown.” Roy promptly shut up and lagged behind with Jason, who was watching the whole ordeal in amusement.

While Dinah helped Lian pick out winter clothes, which he prayed would stray away from Dinah’s usual apparel, Roy kept his eyes out for clothes that could be used for Lian’s Halloween costume. 

The costume she had sketched out for him had a long, dark robe and red scarf. It wasn’t anything that would be too hard to make- Roy could just get a dress and alternate it a bit. He was looking at the children’s dresses when Jason asked what he was doing.

“For Lian’s costume,” he held up a dress and called to his daughter, “Hey, Lian!”

When she looked at him he held it higher. “For your costume?”

She gave a toothy grin and two thumbs up. “Don’t forget matching boots!”

Roy nodded, folding the dress across his arm and going to the little girls’ shoe section. Even from the distance they were at, he could hear Lian’s laughter and Dinah’s voice. He glanced around to see if Jason had followed him too, since he didn’t hear the other man, but didn’t see him anywhere. With a little disappointment, he realized that Jason must’ve stayed with the girls.

While Roy looked for boots, across the store, Dinah and Lian were telling Jason about their Halloween traditions.

“We all go out together!” Lian exclaimed. “Even if we don’t all match, we like to go trick or treating as a family. I think the years we do match are a little more fun though. But I just like everyone getting together.” She explained while trying on different jackets.

“Last year we were the boys from Holes , Dinah continued the conversation while zipping Lian’s jacket to see how well it fit. “I was Squid ,” she boasted proudly, “And Lian was Zero. Of course she got to choose first since it was her idea.” 

“Who was Stanley? ” Jason asked curiously. 

“Roy and Ollie did rock, paper, scissors for him. Roy won, so Ollie was stuck being Armpit .” Dinah recalled.

Jason let out a little laugh. “So, let me guess, Mia was Magnet and Connor was X-Ray?

“Yep!” confirmed Lian. “We didn’t have anyone to be Zigzag though. But it was still lots of fun! We even had shovels and onions.” She slid her arms out of the jacket after Dinah told her it was good. Jason had to admit, Lian did look adorable in the puffed up winter coat, but he didn’t think telling her she looked like a marshmallow was the best idea. Some kids didn’t like being called cute- like Damian. Jason wondered how the little runt was doing.

“How’d you know who Mia and Connie were?” Dinah asked, putting the coat in the basket she brought with them. They began walking over to the pants section. 

Jason responded, “Well X-Ray was more cool-headed and Magnet was known for pickpocketing. It wasn’t rocket science to figure out.” Then, worrying that what he said might have come across as degrading, he hastily added, “I’m just pretty good at getting quick reads on people.” 

“So, is that how you found out about Roy?” asked Dinah. “You were just able to read him?” 

Jason shook his head. “No. He told me. We’ve known each other for a long time. I guess he just didn’t want to keep it a secret.” Waiting outside the dressing room while Lian tried on different pants, Jason rambled, “Not that I’m complaining. If it weren’t for him telling me, I don’t think we’d be anywhere near as close as we are. And I wouldn’t have gotten to meet Lian.”

From inside the dressing room, Lian whooped in agreement.

“But yeah, I like to think I can read Roy pretty well too.” Jason finished.

When he turned to face Dinah, who was standing on the other side of the dressing room entrance, he noticed her giving him a very peculiar look. He tilted his head in confusion, but Dinah only smiled at him in response. Just then, Lian came barging out the dressing room and posing with a pair of kitten print leggings. 

“Fashionable,” Jason told her. She beamed up at him, then turned to Dinah who nodded in agreement. 

“Very snazzy,” she said. Then she turned a mischievous eye to Jason. “How about we find a matching pair for Roy?” 

Lian gave her the same devious look that she wore when Jason first spent the night at the Harpers’ apartment a month ago. Lian rushed back into the dressing room and quickly changed back into the clothes she came in with. She thrusted the pants into the basket hanging off Dinah’s arm and was off to the women’s clothing section.

As he and Dinah followed the little girl, Jason thought he caught a glimpse of Roy looking through the men’s jackets, but he didn’t slow down to check, too enthused by the idea of getting kitten print leggings.

When they finally did reunite with Roy, he had Lian’s dress and a new jacket draped over his arm and a pair of boots in his hand. “Hey, guys,” he greeted, “Miss me?” 

“Terribly,” Dinah drawled with sarcasm, cutting off Jason’s newfound reflexive response of “yes.”

Roy rolled his eyes and took the basket from Dinah so he could put his own findings in it. He then stood by Jason and watched as Dinah and Lian dug through the clearance section. “Find anything you like?” Roy asked him.

Jason shook his head. “Didn’t really look,” he admitted. 

“Well, that’s no good. We got an all-access pass to the Queen Consolidations fortune and you’re just ignoring it.” Roy turned to Dinah. “Mother dearest, can you please hold the basket for a little longer. Petey has seemed to forget that he’s allowed to get something too.”

“But of course, my son who has finally accepted my motherly love! Please take your beloved wherever you wish. We’ll be here,” she took the basket with a wink.

While ignoring the unsubtle teasing from Dinah, Roy lead the way towards another part of the store.

“In my defense,” Jason started, “I didn’t know I was allowed to get anything. I thought it was family exclusive.” 

“It’s definitely family exclusive,” Roy agreed, leading Jason to the used book section, “Which is why you’re getting something.” He looked over his shoulder at Jason, who seemed stunned by his words. He turned and grabbed the other man’s arm to pull him the rest of the way. “Come on. Get anything you want.”

Jason nodded mutely and began browsing through the books. Roy watched him, and at one point when he looked like he was struggling between two books, the redhead told him to just get both. It was only like five dollars after all.

Laughing, Roy told him, “You know, with how reserved you are with money, you wouldn’t think you’re the son of a billionaire.” 

“I wouldn't assume the same of you either,” Jason said while reading the description on the back of a book. “You’re humbled. Mostly. I think a lot of that is from insecurity.” 

“Wow, Jay. Way to call me out.”

“Sorry,” Jason apologized sheepishly. He looked at Roy sympathetically, “I’m not wrong though.”

Roy sighed and turned away. “You know how it is,” he mumbled.

“Yeah…” Jason trailed off. “But, well, you know I’m never not going to support you. You have this hope in your eyes and I don’t have a single doubt you’ll leave your mark on the world,” he said, setting a hand on Roy’s shoulder.

Roy slowly looked at him again, “Is that from one of your books?”

Jason smiled, “Nope. Straight from the heart. So, don’t forget it, because it’s a crime against my ego to have to stand here and remind you.” 

“Ha. Ha.” Roy said, grinning. “Alright, if you got your books then we should head back to the ladies.” 

“All set,” Jason said, then with a teasing lit, “Lead the way beloved.” 

Chapter Text

It was a flurry of motion in the Harpers’ apartment. Connor was helping Lian with her costume, while Mia hackled him about getting into his own costume (an old fashioned Robin Hood one that she thought was hilarious). Meanwhile, Oliver was scolding Mia for her choice in attire. Mia was eighteen now, so Roy supposed she was allowed to dress as scandalously as possible, but it still made the dad in him scowl.

Mia’s costume was, of course, a mildly inappropriate cupid costume fit with big feathery wings and a toy bow to match. 

Dinah had convinced Oliver to pair with her again but decided to get a little creative with the roles. Dinah was dressed as a cowboy, with chaps and boots and all, meanwhile, Oliver was a southern belle. Roy didn’t see anything even remotely wrong with a man in a dress, but seeing his dad in one kept making him have to turn away to hide his laughter. While getting onto Mia, Oliver had knocked his big floppy hat off, causing Dinah to fuss at him. 

So, the room was just stuck in a perpetual circle of fussing. 

Roy wanted to dress up, he really did, but he got so excited about recent leads on the pharmaceutical companies, and expanding his business, and his birthday coming up that he completely forgot he was supposed to make himself something. But not having a costume also meant he wasn’t caught up in the chaos, so when there was a knock on the front door, he was the only one who heard it.

He walked over to the door, smoothing out his orange t-shirt with the word “costume” printed across the breasts, and pulled open the door. On the other side was Jason, who had his face painted like a skeleton. He was also wearing a shirt with a ribcage graphic on it and skeleton hand gloves. “Nice shirt,” Jason said and held out a Halloween makeup kit box, “You look like a pumpkin.”

“What’s that for?” Roy asked, taking the box curiously. Looking at it closely, he realized it was a vampire makeup kit with fake teeth included. 

“Mia texted and said you didn’t dress up. I stopped by the dollar store and got the cheapest thing they had, specifically so you couldn’t complain about me spending money on you,” explained Jason, walking past Roy to take in the mess inside the apartment. He whistled, “I was going to get you a werewolf costume. You know, so you could rip up your shirt and show off all those muscles,” he looked back over his shoulder at Roy, grinning, “but none of the wolf ears matched your hair.” 

“Mia texted you?” asked Roy, looking up from the makeup kit and to Jason.

Jason rolled his eyes. “That’s what you focus on, huh? Yeah. I gave her my number in case something happens. She’s a cool kid. Do you need help with the makeup?” 

Roy nodded and walked to the bathroom. Jason followed after saying a quick hi to everyone else. He sat on the closed toilet lid while Jason opened the kit and got everything out.

“Why didn’t you get a costume?” he questioned while taking off his gloves. It reminded Roy of when they first officially met in Marcus’s restaurant a month ago. Roy had seen Jason’s hands so many times since then, he didn’t even notice the scars anymore.

“Eh. I just didn’t get around to it. Yesterday I got a call from someone who wanted me to fix their car, but they live two hours from here. It slipped my mind.” he said, scuffing his shoe against the floor boredly. “It’s always hectic in the final months of the year with all the holidays and birthdays. Certain types of crime go up around now too. Lots of stealing. And then there’s mechanic issues. People really like letting their cars freeze up for some reason.”

“Speaking of cars,” Jason started, kneeling in front of Roy and taking his chin in hand, “I know you said not to pay you for fixing my bike, so how about you tell me something you want for your birthday. Anything in the world.” 

“I already have everything I want,” Roy said. Typically, it was a reflective answer, Roy never really wanting to ask for more than he needs, but thinking about it, he really did feel it was true.

Jason pinched his cheek lightly. “My guilty conscience won’t let me sleep unless I repay you somehow. This is the best compromise I could come up with.” He let go of Roy’s cheek to hold his chin again while he applied the paint around Roy’s mouth to look like blood.

Roy thought it over. Off the top of his head, there wasn’t much he wanted. He could use a few more parts, his arrows were getting a little scarce, new books and toys for Lian were always nice, hell, he could even ask for a new hat, one that wasn’t all tattered and falling apart. None of those things were calling to him though.

Jason’s eyes flickered to meet his, then moved back to his mouth. He pulled away, then grabbed the black makeup and began applying it around Roy’s eyes. When he was finally done, he asked, “Well?” 

“What about a kiss?”

Jason stared at him, eyes wide. A swirlstorm of emotion was moving around them, and Roy couldn’t help but stare back. Jason’s mouth opened, then closed. A grin broke across Roy’s face when Jason’s shoulders hunched up a little. He internally cursed the other man’s facepaint for hiding the blush that Roy knew was there.

“I can do that,” Jason finally said.

“Yeah?” Roy asked, leaning closer and holding out his pinky. “Do you promise? It is my big three-oh after all.” 

Jason nodded and hooked his pinky with Roy’s. “Promise,” 

Smiling, Roy stood and pulled Jason up. “I look forward to it, Jaybird.” 

“I bet you do, Arrowhead.” 

“I thought I was Mockingbird now?” 

“You’ve been demoted,” 

Roy chuckled and grabbed the plastic vampire teeth and placed them in his mouth. He grinned at Jason, who shook his head, smiling. 

Jason snatched up his gloves before they walked back to the living room to find things were finally calming down. Fully clad in her costume, Lian ran over. “Cha, you look scary!” 

“Well, it is Halloween,” Roy responded with a lisp thanks to the fake teeth.

“And Jayjay you look super cool!” 

“Thanks, kiddo,” he said, kneeling down to pull her hood over her head. “You look cool too,” 

Lian smiled at him and Oliver walked up. “I don’t believe we’ve met yet,” he held out a hand, “Oliver Queen,” 

Jason stood to meet Oliver’s gaze. The older man had a twinkle in his eye like he knew something Jason didn’t. It unnerved Jason slightly, but he assumed it was just Oliver being Oliver. With a smile, Jason grasped Oliver’s hand, but before he could get anything out, he squeaked and yanked his hand away.

Oliver began laughing and Roy hit his shoulder. “Seriously?” he asked, “A trick buzzer? I told you to stop using those on my friends.”

“Trick buzzer?” Jason questioned, looking down at his unharmed gloved hand. “So, I got trick?”

“See?!” Oliver exclaimed in joy, “Jayjay gets it!”

“Peter actually. Jayjay is a nickname.” Jason explained, then held out his hand again, making sure Oliver took off the buzzer first. “It’s nice to finally meet you, Mr. Queen.”

“Pleasure’s all mine, Peter. I’ve heard a lot about you.” Oliver said, then turned to Roy, “I like this one. He’s less whiny than Barry’s kid.”

“Wally isn’t whiny,” Roy deadpanned, then shook his head and turned to hide a laugh. “Sorry, Ollie. You just-” he cut off laughing. “I can’t wait for the press to get pictures of you dressed like that. Periwinkle isn’t really your color, you know.”

“You’re just jealous that I can pull it off,” Oliver remarked, grinning cockily, and Jason realized that grin was something Roy had definitely picked up from him.

“The only one that’s pulling that off is me!” Dinah yelled up with a horrible fake country accent.

“Not in front of Lian,” Connor told her, to which Dinah gave a quieter, “oops,” 

Clapping her hands together, Mia asked, “Okay! Is everyone ready to go now? I’m tired of watching these old farts talk.”

With affirmations from everyone in the group, they all headed out the apartment, Roy being the last one out so he could lock the door.

Lian lead the pack to the elevator. Everyone crowded into it and Oliver pressed the button for the lobby. They were quiet, the silence of the elevator near deafening. Then, Jason spoke up. “So, I thought Halloween costumes were generally scary,” he commented to no one in particular. 

“I think Ollie in that dress is pretty scary,” Mia said, causing Lian to giggle and Connor to hide a smile behind his hand. Dinah gasped in offense on Oliver’s behalf and reassured him that he looked great. Roy rolled his eyes and grinned when Lian looked up at him.

She grabbed Roy’s hand and looked at Jason. “Halloween isn’t just about being scary. It’s about having fun! The scary is a bonus!”

“What if you have more fun when it’s more scary?” asked Jason, lightly swinging Lian’s arm when she took his hand as well.

“Then you have good taste,” Lian confidently nodded. When the elevator doors opened, she pulled the two men through and continued leading the way outside and down the street. 

While they were walking down the street, Connor pulled out a piece of paper that looked like a map of the city. Certain neighborhoods were circled and there was a route mapped out on it. “Up here take a left,” he said.

Jason curiously looked back at him. “What’s that?” he asked.

“A map of the city,” Connor explained. “Every year we take turns figuring out the best candy route for Lian.”

“And then I split the candy with everyone! Whoever makes the map gets a little more than everyone else though. And of course, I get the most out of everyone!” Lian added.

“Why do you get the most?” Jason looked down at her.

She grinned widely. “Because it’s my cute face that gets the candy in the first place!” 

Jason chuckled. “Sounds like you guys got it all figured out,” 

“What do you normally do for Halloween, Peter?” Oliver questioned.

“I haven’t done much for the past few years. I mostly just stayed in and watched movies, but when I was little I liked to go trick or treating.” Jason recalled. “My parents weren't around to take me out though, so it was usually just me, at least until I made a few friends that would go with me.” He glanced in Roy’s direction, wondering if Roy remembered the one time Jason was able to spend Halloween with the Teen Titans. 

“Oh, well, I’m sorry to hear that,” Oliver said, sounding genuinely apologetic. 

“It’s fine,” Jason assured. “I get a chance to make up all those lost opportunities with you guys.” 

From there, the conversation became lighter as they approached their first house. Lian ran up the steps, still pulling Roy and Jason along, and only let go of their hands to hold out her bag. With a wide smile, she greeted the homeowner, “Trick or treat!” 

They followed the same pattern for the rest of that block. One little old lady who opened the door commented on what a lovely family they were, to which Lian responded with an enthused, “Thank you!” while smiling up at her father with knowing eyes. 

At the end of the block, Lian took both their hands and instead of pulling them to the next house, she brought their hands together. “Stay together so you don’t get lost. I’m going to take Granny Dinah and Grandpa Ollie to the next houses,” she told them while holding their hands together. She stepped back, looking at their joined hands and nodded in satisfaction when they didn’t let go of each other. 

Lian ran over to Oliver and Dinah and began pulling them along like she had for Jason and Roy. Connor walked past the now abandoned pair and patted Jason on the back. Mia passed them on the other side and whispered something into Roy’s ear that made him flush. Jason watched curious as Roy turned to him.

“We’re pretty obvious, huh?” he asked, giving Jason a warm smile that made the cool night air feel more like summer. 

“Maybe a little,” Jason admitted, then, pulling Roy’s hand, “Come on. We don’t want to get left behind.” 

They followed the group, hands still joined, throughout the rest of the night. At one point, Jason began swinging their arms like he had with Lian, but that ended up as a competition on who could swing their arms harder. Jason would bet they were near dislocating each other’s shoulders when Mia turned around and told them to stop being obnoxious.

Jason laughed apologetically and Roy stuck his tongue out at her. She rolled her eyes but grinned nonetheless. Instead, they started squeezing each other’s hands until the other gave in. Much like how he was winning their swinging contest, Roy was winning their hand squeezing contest as well.

“Okay, okay,” Jason all but giggled, feeling way too giddy for the situation, “You win. Stop breaking my fingers already.” 

Roy beamed at him and loosened his grip. The look made Jason’s heart jump to his throat, and he hoped the slight stumble in his step wasn’t noticeable. Going back to lightly swinging their arms, the pair kept walking in comfortable silence. 

It seemed like the night flew by because pretty soon they were all on their way back to Roy and Lian’s apartment. When he was a kid, Jason swore the night lasted forever. Most of his early Halloween’s were long nights of him getting as much candy as possible so that he had something to eat. Despite the dark overhanging that the night had, he had always enjoyed being out on the town at night and seeing everyone having a good time. Then he joined with Bruce and he started patrolling on Halloween. Then it wasn't about food, it was about protecting those who couldn't protect themselves.

Now, being an adult, it seemed like the night flew by. Adding that to the fact that they were going home a little earlier than most people since it was a school night and Roy was strict about Lian getting her nine hours, the night really felt like only a few minutes. 

Huh. Home. Jason thought. A small smile crossed his lips.

Roy looked at him curiously. “Something on your mind, Jaybird?” he asked quietly.

Jason shook his head, “I’m just happy.”

Roy copied his smile, “Happy looks good on you. You know that?”

“Roy, you think everything looks good on me.” 

Laughing softly, Roy trailed off, “Yeah, well…”

Behind them Mia gagged, causing both of them to laugh loudly. The rest of the group looked at them, clearly confused as to what was so funny, but Roy waved them off. They all shrugged it off, aside from Lian who watched her dad in excitement.

Jason had planned to leave once they got to the apartment, but Roy hadn’t let go of his hand yet, so he followed everyone else to the elevator. Once in the apartment, everyone went about getting changed into their normal clothes, except him since he showed up in his costume. Lian had taken the bathroom as soon as they got there, and Roy was helping her wash her hair. 

Oliver and Dinah took Roy’s room to change while Mia went into Lian’s. That left Connor to sit on the couch with Jason while he waited for a room to open.

“You like Roy, right?” Connor asked nonchalantly. 

Jason glanced at him, “Yeah. I do,” 

“Dating a superhero is no easy feat,” warned Connor. “Make sure you treat him and Lian right. Or else you’ll have us four after you. And maybe the whole Green Lantern Corps. We could even potentially get the whole Justice League on you.” 

Grinning easily, Jason said, “It’s like I told Mia, I don’t plan on letting anything happen to either of them.” Then Jason’s voice dropped, “I’ll do anything to keep them safe, Connor. And I mean anything.” 

“That’s reassuring to hear,” Connor said, standing as Mia entered the room. Connor disappeared to go change while Mia took his seat on the couch and began teasing Jason about holding hands with Roy the whole night.

Eventually, everyone was done changing and they sat around the living room until Lian was done with her bath. When Lian did emerge from the bathroom, Roy trailing behind her, everyone stood to hug her and wish her goodnight. 

She padded back to her bedroom, and Roy followed to tuck her in. She snuggled up under her blanket and looked at him tiredly. “Happy early birthday, cha.” 

"Thanks, sweetheart," Roy smiled and kissed her head. “I’ll see you in the morning. Love you.”

“Love you too,” she mumbled sleepily.

Roy softly closed the door and went back to the living room. Everyone else was sitting around, Mia, Dinah, and Oliver on the couch, Jason and Connor on the two reclining chairs. Roy walked over and sat on the armrest of Jason’s chair. “What are we talking about?” he asked.

All eyes turned to him and Mia spoke up, “How much of a DILF you are,”

“Excuse me?” Roy squawked, blushing furiously. “Why were you guys talking about that?”

“Oh. It was just Peter,” Mia said with a grin.

“It was not,” Jason hissed and Roy’s head snapped to look at him. His facepaint had been rubbed off, leaving his skin red and irritated. Or maybe that was just because of the flush risings to his cheeks. “You started it, Mia,”

“Technically, it was Ollie.” 

Roy’s gaze turned to Oliver, who was looking back with wide eyes. “Uh,” he said dumbly. “Okay, look. I was just letting your boyfriend know that I approve. It isn’t my fault he started talking about how pretty he thinks you are.”

Roy grinned and looked at Jason again. “You think I’m pretty?”

Jason hunched his shoulders up to his ears. “Haven’t I told you before?”

“Not that I can remember,”

The room fell silent. Roy kept looking at Jason, wondering just what Jason found attractive about him. Roy knew he wasn’t ugly, but he also knew he was kind of a mess. Compared to him, Jason seemed a lot more put together. Then again, how much of Jason’s personal life did Roy actually know? 

He knew Jason loved reading. He knew that Jason was skilled in hand-to-hand combat. He knew Jason was the son of Bruce Wayne, and that Jason hadn’t talked to Bruce since he came back, but Jason explained to Roy that he just wasn’t ready for that yet. He also knew Jason worried about his brothers and sisters.

Jason was caring, he was smart, and Roy was whipped for him. Why worry about what he didn’t know when he already loved what he did know?

“Hey, Roy, are you giving your share of candy to Lian again this year?” Oliver asked while helping organize the candy into different categories. They had an area for fruity and an area for chocolate and subcategories within each area based on brand and specific flavor. 

Roy nodded and began helping organize the candy that was scattered across the coffee table. Nudging Jason, Roy asked, “What about you? Do you want any?” 

Jason shook his head and moved a few Snickers into their pile, “I don’t need candy. I’ve got you.” 

“Can you two get a room maybe?” Mia teased, “It’s bad enough having Dinah and Ollie all over each other.” 

“Aww, but Mia that was romantic!” Dinah said with a laugh.

Roy might’ve moved off the armrest of the recliner to squeeze into the seat next to Jason after that, but if anyone noticed, they didn’t comment on it.

The next few hours flew by pretty fast. After getting all the candy organized and dividing it appropriately, Oliver put in some streaming stick into Roy’s T.V. and they all sat around while he chose a scary movie. Connor went into the kitchen for a few minutes and came back with three large bowls of popcorn for all of them to share.

During the movie, Oliver fell asleep first, followed by Mia, and then Jason. Dinah, Connor, and Roy were left to clean up the living room and wash out the popcorn bowls. By the time they were done and half asleep, it was nearing midnight. 

After a quick round of nose-goes, Dinah was stuck waking everyone up and, as tradition, telling them that they had patrol until five. Except for Jason of course. Roy watched Dinah go to all three of the others who fell asleep while wondering what he did to deserve such a great family.

“Roy?” Connor asked. Roy hummed in response, so Connor continued, “Peter seems really nice.”

“He is. Connie, he’s so nice. Lian loves him too.” Roy said without thinking.

“Love, huh?”

“I know it hasn’t been very long, but, well, I can’t really imagine things without him now. It feels like he’s been here forever.” Roy explained quietly, “He’s like a breath of fresh air I didn’t know I needed. Something new but still so familiar. Does that make sense?”

Connor smiled at him, “It doesn’t need to, Roy. Just do what makes you happy and if that happens to be him…”

“Thanks- wait. Did you just insinuate that I should do him? Like, do him?” Roy asked surprised. 

Connor patted him on the shoulder, “I may have been hanging around Mia and some of the leaguers too much lately.”

“I’m so proud of you. Your first dirty joke. I’ll never forget this.” 

Across the room, Oliver was speaking to a groggy Jason about something the latter was only half paying attention to. Most of his focus was on the fact that Roy kept looking at him, and Jason’s still half asleep brain wouldn’t stop thinking about the fact that he promised to kiss the other man.

It wasn’t like he didn’t want to kiss Roy, because he sure as hell did, but there was one little issue about doing that. 

Logically, the next step for them would be to start dating. Jason had no doubt that Roy liked him and Jason himself was already head over heels for the idiot, so what was stopping them from becoming more than friends?

The answer to that would be that Jason was leaving soon. He needed to see his family and clear things up with them. The last time Jason was in Gotham, he was screwing around with drug rinks and gangs and all sorts of crazy things that he probably should have left alone, but last time he was in Gotham he really didn’t have his head on straight (“Straight,” ha. As if).

After a big fight with Bruce, and a good hundred swings at the Joker, Jason left on a cross-country road trip to see what everyone else was up to. The only person he was really mad at was his dad, and maybe Tim, but he cleared up things with his little brother, and he had always been a people person. So, he started checking up on the old Titans. His first stop had been Bludhaven.

Dick had been shocked, to say the least. Dick had also been calling Jason more and more recently, so that may have been partially why Jason wanted to go back to Gotham for a while.

He really didn’t want to start something with Roy just to leave. He also knew Roy could do so much better than him. Worst of all, Jason was worried he would somehow hurt him.

“Peter?” Oliver snapped his fingers in front of Jason’s face. 

“Sorry! Sorry, I was thinking.” Jason quickly apologized.

Oliver smiled in kind, “It’s alright. I remember how I was at your age too. I could never keep my eyes off Dinah. Or my hands.” Jason must’ve made a face because Oliver began laughing. “You’ll understand. Oh but, once you do get to that point, don’t say anything about the facial hair. It can really wound a man’s pride.”

“What...what point?” Jason asked cautiously. 

“When you have sex,”

“Okay,” Jason’s voice cracked as he spoke, “I appreciate the advice, Mr. Queen, but I really don’t think Roy’s facial hair will be a problem.”

“Oh. Is that why you kept talking about his face earlier?”

“I was talking about his eyes and no. Can we talk about something different?”

Grinning widely, Oliver asked, “Peter, are you embarrassed? Sexual attraction is nothing to be ashamed of-” 

“Ollie!” Roy exclaimed, wrapping an arm around Jason’s shoulders, and unintentionally making Jason think about those arms wrapped around him in a more intimate way. “You gotta patrol tonight, dad. Best not to be late.” 

“Right. Right. Star City needs someone out tonight.” Oliver turned towards Mia, “Ready to head out, Speedy?” 

“Hell yeah! The night is still young, let’s go!” She cheered.

Roy shushed her. “Lian’s asleep,” 

She cheered quieter. 

Everyone gave their farewells and hugs were shared, then everyone but Jason had left. Roy didn’t really want him to go, but Jason had stayed over so much in the past few weeks that Roy worried that maybe he was coming across as clingy. Jason was a little more reserved than him and Roy assumed that meant that he needed more alone time to recharge, which is why he was confused when Jason hesitated at the door.

“What time is it?” The former Robin asked.

Roy pulled his phone from his pocket and checked the time. “A few minutes past twelve. Why?” 

Roy tucked his phone back in his pocket as Jason stepped closer. He looked nervous, and Roy suddenly remembered his promise from earlier. Jason lightly placed a hand on Roy’s hip and slid the other along his jaw to the back of his head. Roy could feel his fingers tangling in his hair and he started feeling a little self-conscious about the fact that it had been a few days since he last washed it.

That bit of self-doubt disappeared when Jason leaned into his space and Roy could feel his breath ghosting over his skin. His eyes fluttered closed and he felt as if every muscle in his body relaxed simultaneously. Roy brought a hand up to press against Jason’s chest and clutch as his shirt. 

A pair of lips pressed against his forehead.

“God, Jason-”

“Happy birthday, Roy,” Jason whispered against Roy’s skin. He pulled away and Roy slowly opened his eyes.

“You’re a goddamn tease,” Roy said shakily. “A horrible, horrible tease. Stay the night?” 

Jason let out a light laugh, “I’d love to.”

Roy held out his hand and Jason took it. As he was being pulled to Roy’s room, Jason momentarily let himself forget about leaving and instead focused on the warmth of Roy’s hand.

Chapter Text

The next morning, Jason woke up with sunlight beaming down on his cheek and an arm under his head. As he slowly came to, blinking his eyes open and squinting up at Roy, he realized there was a hand running through his hair too. 

“Morning,” Roy whispered from above him, a warm smile on his face. He curled the tuft of white hair in Jason’s bangs around his finger. “You make faces when you sleep. It’s really cute.” 

Groaning, Jason rolled over. “I could’ve had a nice morning, but then you had to go and open your fat mouth.”

Roy laughed and pressed up behind Jason while wrapping an arm around his waist. “I was complimenting you, Jaybird. Usually, people say thanks after that.” He placed a gentle kiss behind Jason’s ear, then blew a raspberry on the back of his neck.

With a loud squeak, Jason jolted away and fell off the bed, causing Roy to start laughing harder. Jason scrambled up and shoved one of the pillows over Roy’s face.

From beneath the pillow, Roy yelled, “It’s my birthday! You can’t do this!” 

Jason grinned and pulled the pillow away. “You’re right. I shouldn’t play rough with an old man.” 

“Old man?!” 

Jason started snickering and hid his face behind the pillow when the look on Roy’s face made him start cackling. 

"Jay, I'm only a few years older than you! You can't call me old!" Roy exclaimed as he sat up, definitely not letting his eyes linger on the other man’s bare chest, and absolutely not letting them linger further downwards to the low hanging sweatpants that Jason had borrowed last night. 

"Sorry, gramps, did I upset you?" Jason grinned over the pillow.

In retaliation, Roy yanked the pillow down just to throw it back at Jason's dumb handsome face. Jason continued laughing, and he sat down next to Roy on the bed. He laid his head on the other man's shoulder and let his eyes fall closed.

Then, there was a knock on the door and it opened slightly. "Cha? Are you making breakfast?" Lian's voice sounded from the crack in the door. 

"Yeah, sweetheart, just a-"

"He's not," Jason interrupted, "But I am." 

With excitement in her voice, Lian shoved the door open, "Jayjay!" She ran into the room and jumped at Jason who caught her with a laugh.

"Hey, cutie. Wanna go help me make a special birthday breakfast for your dad?" He asked her.

"Yeah!" She jumped back and tugged on Jason's hand. "We have to hurry though, I have school today." 

Jason glanced at Roy and gave him a look that looked just a tad bit pleasing. "School? Even though it's a holiday?" 

"It's a holiday?" Lian tilted her head, "I thought today was just cha's birthday."

Jason turned his attention back to her. "That's the holiday," 

Lian looked at Roy, eyes wide and eager. “It’s a holiday,”

“I guess it is, huh?” He defeatedly said. Then, more energetic, “Alright you scamps, go make me breakfast then.” 

“Yessir!” Jason and Lian said in unison. Lian left the room to go change out of her pajamas. Roy watched as Jason stood and stretched his arms above his head before picking up Roy’s discarded shirt from the night before and putting it on.

Leaning back on his elbows, Roy told him, “You can get a clean shirt if you want,”

Jason looked at him. Then Jason looked at him and Roy felt his heart rate increase and began worrying he’d have a stroke. Moving closer, Jason braced his knee on the bed between Roy’s legs, then he leaned forward, placing his thumb between Roy’s brows. “You’re going to get wrinkles with all that worrying you do. So cut it out because you worrying makes me worry and I don’t need any more white hairs.” 

“Your white hairs are charming,”

Grinning, Jason pulled away, “Your everything is charming. And I’m keeping the shirt.” With that, he left the room to make breakfast with Lian. 

Roy laid back on the bed and wondered how his life got so good. He felt like he was wondering that a lot lately and it brought a smile to his face. It was hard to imagine that just about two months ago Roy didn’t even know Jason was alive and now the man was making breakfast with Roy’s daughter. 

He smiled to himself and threw an arm over his eyes. The night before, after Roy had taken Jason to his room, they had changed out of their clothes into some of Roy’s sweatpants and talked. Deciding to lay it all out there, Roy told Jason that he really cared about him and would love to keep him around for the foreseeable future. Of course, he said that a lot less articulate, but he got the message across. 

Jason’s eyes had flooded with so much joy and excitement, and then it all washed away and was replaced with guilt. Not facing Roy, Jason told him that he needed to leave for Gotham soon, to make amends with his family. Roy assured him that was okay and that Roy could wait for him.

“Jay, trust me, I understand. Family is important. Me and Lian will be here whenever you’re ready to come back, okay?” He clutched Jason’s hand and kissed his knuckles, “We can talk on the phone every day, and I know there’s computers over there so we can video chat too.”

“I don’t want to leave though, Roy. God, I love it here so much. I love spending time with you and Lian and everyone else. I love how simple and untainted things between us are and I’m terrified that I’m going to mess it up somehow,” Jason rambled while his free hand clenching and unclenching on top of his thigh. “I don’t want to ruin what we have going. I don’t want to bring any pain to anyone here, but I do that a lot. I haven’t told you things about when I came back and I’m scared everything I’ve been trying to leave behind me will come back if I say it out loud-”

“Jaybird, hey, little birdie, look at me,” Roy said, reaching up to wipe away tears that Jason didn’t realize he had shed. “You don’t have to tell me anything if you aren’t ready. I can wait, Jaybird, I’ll wait as long as you need. If you need to go see your family and take time to think before we go forward with what we have, then I’ll be patient.”

“Roy I-,” Jason cut himself off by turning to hug Roy, “What did I do to deserve you?”

Hugging Jason back with a smile, Roy asked, “Do you want a list or…?” 

Roy grinned solemnly at the memory. After their little talk, they agreed to hold off on anything “official” until after Jason came back from Gotham. Then they started talking about past birthdays Roy had and that lead to Roy telling stories upon stories. Somewhere during one particular tale about how he and Wally had ended up pissing Dick off to the point of being locked out Titans Tower, Jason had fallen asleep, still hugging Roy.

Sitting up, he decided it was about time he go and check on the other two and see what they had made so far. Roy grabbed a t-shirt from his dresser and pulled it over his head before making his way to the kitchen. He walked up behind Jason and looked over his shoulder at what he was making.

“Hey,” Jason greeted, “We agreed on breakfast sandwiches. What do you want on yours?”

“Everything?” 

“Sure,” 

“Cha, do you want to cut the veggies so Jayjay can put them in with the eggs?” Lian asked from where she was pulling different vegetables from the fridge. 

“Of course, sweetheart,” he replied, placing a kiss on Jason’s cheek before pulling away and getting a knife and cutting board. He grinned at the red rising to Jason’s cheeks.

With the three of them working together, it didn’t take very long for breakfast to be finished up. They all sat around the island eating their sandwiches and talking about what they’d be doing for the rest of the day. Roy figured he could take today off since Lian was staying home and it was the last day Jason could spend time with them before leaving. 

He frowned slightly, the reality of the situation catching up to him. 

“Cha? What’s wrong?” Lian asked, looking at him with worried eyes. 

Roy looked at Jason, who had stopped eating and was giving Roy a concerned look as well. Roy nodded towards Lian and Jason seemed to understand. He sighed softly and turned to the girl. “Lian,” Jason started, “I’m going to be going away for a while.” 

“Huh? Why, Jayjay?” she asked confused. “Did something happen? You guys aren’t fighting are you?” 

“No, no. Nothing like that,” Jason said before the tears welting up in Lian’s eyes could fall. “I’m going to go visit my family for a while. You know, Batman?” 

“You mean Bruce Wayne?” She asked. “And Uncle Dickie?”

Jason’s eyes widened, “Yeah, but how did you know he was Bruce?” 

“You’re bad at keeping secrets,” she grinned and wiped her eyes, “You both are.”

Jason let out a little laugh and brought his eyes back to Roy, “Yeah, I guess we kinda are,” Then he looked back at Lian, “But, hey, since it’s Roy’s birthday and my last day in town, how about we go do something super fun?”

"We can see if the Halloween fair is still running," Roy suggested.

"Halloween fair?" Jason asked.

"Yeah, it lasts for a few days around Halloween. It's not the most exciting thing in the world, but they have rides and games, you know?" Roy explained, "It's been a few years since we went though. It might be different now."

"Well, I'm down if both of you want to go," said Jason.

"I want to!" Lian cheered. "Cha, do you think they still have the pumpkin carving contest?" 

Roy thought for a moment. "I don't see why they wouldn't. Do you want to enter?" 

Lian nodded quickly with a wide grin. She looked at Jason. "Jayjay, do you wanna do pumpkin carving?"

"Sure, kiddo," then Jason stood, "Roy, do you mind if I use your shower first?" 

"Not at all. Help yourself to anything in there." Roy told him. Jason nodded with a thanks and left for the bathroom. After the sound of the bathroom door closing was heard, Roy said, "We agreed to video call while he's gone. So, it'll be like those times when I went on longer missions." 

"I'm still going to miss him," Lian said sadly, poking at her sandwich before taking a small bite, "You hold yourself higher when he's around. I can tell he makes you happier. I could even hear you guys laughing this morning." She looked up at Roy. "Cha, do you love him?" 

Roy smiled at his daughter. He never liked lying to her and didn't see any point in doing so now. "I think I might. What about you?" 

Lian nodded shyly. "It's kinda like when Aunt Donna stayed with us, just...different. But it's still good. Instead of having a mom, it's like having two dads! And it's really fun, especially when Jayjay gets to stay all day. And he likes reading like me, so when he babysits we read together and he does voices for the characters and everything!" Lian's eyes began getting watery again and Roy felt a lump grow in his throat. "He'll be back, right, cha? He isn't going to leave us like mẹ, is he?" 

"Lian, no, of course not," Roy said with a shake in his voice. He moved around the island to hold Lian in his arm. "Jay will come back. He's good at doing that. And I think he really loves us too, even if he doesn't say it out loud." 

Down the hall, and pressed against the bathroom door, Jason silently listened in on Roy and Lian's conversation. He didn't mean to eavesdrop per se, it just kinda happened nowadays.

Nonetheless, he felt a little bit like an intruder in this situation and also felt guilty at the fact that both the Harpers would be hurt by his departure. If he could stay in Star City he would, but something was pulling him back to Gotham. Her streets were crying for him and he knew he'd have to resolve all the things he left behind and broken.

Drying his hair from his two-minute shower (something he had picked up during his darker days was how to be in and out of places quickly, including the shower), and pulling on the clean clothes he borrowed from Roy's room, Jason gave himself one quick look over in the mirror.

The bags that used to rest under his eyes had finally gone away, and as he gazed at himself, he could see the happiness that had settled in his very bones. He forced himself to look away because he knew that with each passing second his resolve to leave was weakening. Lucky, or rather unluckily for him, he was a stubborn bastard.

Jason opened and closed the door loud enough to echo down the hall and to the kitchen. Purposely, he made his footsteps heard as well. When he entered the open living room, he saw Lian and Roy at the island eating contently. He gave them a wide smile and in turn, they smiled back. The domesticity of their arrangement made Jason's heart swell with something he hadn't felt in so long.

"Nice outfit," Roy commented as Jason took his seat at the island again, "It looks familiar."

"I wonder why that is," Jason said, causing Lian to giggle and snort her orange juice. 

Lian placed her empty cup down and wiped her mouth before collecting her dishes and placing them in the sink. She turned back to the two men with her hands clasped behind her back while she rocked on the balls of her feet, "Jayjay, can you braid my hair for me?"

"'Course I will, sweetheart. Just bring me the brush," he answered. Lian nodded and ran to her room to grab her brush. Meanwhile, Jason grabbed Roy's hand and whispered, "I want to watch her grow up, and I want to grow with you." 

Roy stared at Jason with wide eyes. He smiled and brought Jason’s hand up to his lips and pressed a kiss to his knuckles. "I want you to do that too,"

"Then after my visit, I'll stay."

Lian bounced back into the kitchen with her brush in hand. Jason gave Roy's hand a quick squeeze before letting go and turning in his seat so he could face Lian.

Roy watched as Jason worked. The whole time, Lian recalled the events of her dream to him, animatedly speaking with her hands in a way that Roy often catches himself doing. The sight of the two of them together, just interacting the way a parent and a child would made Roy feel a specific kind of love that he hadn’t felt in ages.

Jason began braiding Lian’s hair, now asking questions about the details of her dream, and Roy watched how he twisted the strands of hair and tangled them together better than Roy himself ever had.

"Where'd you learn how to braid?" Roy found himself asking.

Jason glanced at him from the corner of his eye, "It's sort of a long story," 

"Oh, well you don't have to-"

"I learned after I came back," Jason started, interrupting Roy, "At some point, for a long while, I ended up with Talia Al Ghul. I have...a lot going on in my head, you know? One of those things is anxiety and if I started fidgeting, she'd let me style her hair." He turned to Roy, "Don't get me wrong, the woman's a manipulative bi- lady, and she only let me do that so she could give me a faux sense of security, but hey, at least I gained something useful from it." 

"Jay, I'm sorry. I didn't know." Roy said, remorse filling his green eyes. Jason hated that look on him.

"What are you apologizing for? It wasn't your fault," he turned back to Lian with a small grin while he tied off the braid, "Besides, I can fix up yours and Little Miss Lian's hair whenever need be. I'm turning a bad into a good." He tapped Lian's shoulder, "All good, sweetheart, and you heard that last bit, right?" 

Lian turned around to look up at Jason, "About turning a bad into a good?" 

"Right on! Remember that for me, okay? Sometimes bad things happen, but they can lead to good. Like me leaving for a bit seems sad and wrong," Lian nodded, confusion clear on her face, so Jason continued, "But I'm going to come back and when I do, I can stay for good. But only if you'll have me," 

Lian nodded enthusiastically and climbed into Jason's lap to give him a tight hug. "Promise?" she asked quietly.

"Promise," Jason assured, bringing his arms up to wrap around Lian. He made eye contact with Roy and the amount of compassion the other man was looking at him with almost made him burst out in tears on the spot. Along with his promise to Lian, Jason internally promised himself that he would do everything he could to ensure that his new little family would lead long happy lives. He'd crawl to the ends of the Earth and fight tooth and nail just to see their smiles. That he was sure of, more sure than he had ever been.

When Lian eventually pulled away and the emotional atmosphere settled down, the three of them gathered the dishes from the table and began cleaning. Lian and Jason insisted that Roy sit back and not do anything since it was his birthday and all, but the workaholic wouldn't sit still and busied himself with wiping down the island.

From island he was scrubbing at one particular stain of something that had dyed the countertop, Roy heard Lian and Jason snickering and giggling behind him. He looked over his shoulder to see both of them with matching bubble mohawks. Roy snorted and covered his mouth to muffle his laughter, but the hand he used was the one he was cleaning with, so he immediately gagged.

Two pairs of wide eyes turned to him and he froze. Then, taking in their caught-red-handed looks, Roy started laughing, causing the other two to start up in their laughter as well. Pretty soon, Roy was clutching the side of the island to keep himself upright while laughter shook his whole body, while Jason and Lian were already on the floor, tears running down the latter's cheeks. "It's not..even that funny," Jason gasped out between chuckles, causing them all to wheeze and laugh even harder.

When they all finally calmed down, Roy found himself on the floor as well, staring at his pair of raven-haired giggle boxes with a loving smile. "You two are dorks," he said.

"Cha, you started it!" Lian exclaimed, the adrenaline from laughing so hard causing her shoulders to shake a bit every now and then while her heart rate tried to return to normal, "Me and Jayjay were just washing dishes,"

"Yeah, Roy. We were being responsible." Jason added.

Roy rose an eyebrow, his smile growing, "Bubble mohawks are part of washing dishes responsibly?" 

"Yes," Lian and Jason said in unison, then followed up with a "Jinx!"

Roy shook his head with a light laugh before standing. He walked over to the other two and offered a hand to Lian and pulled her up before doing the same for Jason. “Let’s get ready to go so we can beat the crowds there,” he said.

Jason, who was already dressed for the day, finished up the dishes while Lian and Roy went to go get changed. When they were all dressed, Roy insisting that everyone wear at least two layers because it was drizzling outside and he didn’t want anyone catching a cold, they made their way outside. At first, Jason and Roy quietly discussed their mode of transportation. Deciding that it wasn’t safe for all three of them on one bike while the roads were slick, Roy called an Uber to come pick them up.

They all clamored into the small car when it pulled up, Lian in between the two men, pulling on the cuffs of her sleeves in anticipation. The man who picked them up, a younger guy, maybe around Jason’s age asked where to.

“City fair,” Roy told him and the man grinned.

“Oh, it’s nice this year,” he said, pulling off the curb and into the road, “I’m not sure how many prizes are left, but the food is a lot better than it’s been.” 

"When did you go?" Roy asked, politely making small talk. To his side, Jason was teaching Lian how to play Sticks.

"Yesterday with my little sister," the driver glanced in the rearview mirror to smile at Lian, "Do you like pie, little lady?" 

Lian nodded, "But I like candied apples more," 

"Well, there's plenty of those there too," 

Lian looked up at Roy with a toothy grin. He nodded with a small smile. "You can have one when we get there,"

She whooped in excitement then began asking Jason about what his favorite seasonal food was, then seasonal movies, and then seasonal decorations. The answers were surprisingly all Christmas themed. Well, maybe not so surprisingly. Although not seemingly religious, Jason did have a strong liking to spending family time together, which Roy usually associated with Christmas. He started hoping the other man would be back before the holiday came around.

The arrived at the fair and climbed out of the car, Jason being the last one because he insisted he pay. 

As they walked up to the front gate, the three of them hand in hand with Lian in the middle, a slight breeze picked up causing tiny raindrops to pelt their faces and the scent of pumpkin spice and cinnamon invade their noses. Roy glanced at Jason to find his eyes wide with bewilderment. 

"You okay, Jaybird?" he asked.

Jason turned towards him and nodded, "I haven't been to a fair in forever. It's enthralling." 

"Enthralling," Lian repeated under her breath. Jason grinned down at her, knowing that she was committing the bigger word to memory for later use. 

Once in the gates, they were greeted by copious amounts of pumpkins and straw. It looked like the Fall Festivals that Roy's middle school used to put on and the current ones that Lian's elementary schools hosted. Their first stop was to the food vendors, so they followed the signs that pointed them in that direction.

Roy and Lian sat at a picnic table under an umbrella-like canopy while Jason bought them all candy apples, insisting, again, that he pay, "It's your birthday," he told Roy. Then quieter, "Let me be your sugar daddy today," 

To which Roy blushed at, but nodded in agreement before pulling Lian to the table they were now seated at. He watched Jason talk to the vendor lady more a moment, then turned his attention to Lian, who was drumming on the table. 

"Nice beat," he commented.

She beamed at him, "I learned from the best," 

Raising a brow, Roy said, "I never taught you,"

"I found your box of VHS tapes," 

Roy scowled, “Lian, some of the songs I used to play were not kid-appropriate. What did I tell you about digging through my old stuff?” 

“Ask you first so you can look through it with me?” She recalled.

Roy’s scowl disappeared and was replaced with a small grin, “Exactly. You’re getting older and I’m going to have to explain those inappropriate things to you,”

Lian grimaced, “Like the videos they said we’re going to watch about puberty and stuff?”

“Yep,”

“I don’t want to,”

Roy started laughing while Lian vehemently shook her head.

“Whoa, what’s going on here?” Jason asked, walking back over with three candied apples. “Lian, you’re going to knock your pretty braid out doing that,”

Lian stopped shaking her head with a gasp, “Is it still okay?!” 

Jason grinned and took a seat next to her, “Yeah, it’s still pretty. Want an apple?” he asked, holding it out.

Lian’s eyes dilated and she snatched the apple away with a quick “Thanks, Jayjay!” before she started chomping on it. Jason watched in mild horror, while Roy continued laughing, now at the expression on Jason’s face. Figuring Lian’s enthusiastic eating was normal, Jason slowly turned away from her to hold out an apple to Roy, who was a lot more careful eating his, nearly too careful, and Jason’s mind was whirling with confusion on how two people he found very alike were the complete antithesis of each other when it came to such a small task.

Jason decided to eat his candied apple like a normal human being, grinning to himself at the taste. It really had been a long time since he’d been to a fair. He was probably around fourteen or fifteen when Alfred had brought him to one in Gotham. God, he missed the old man.

They finished their apples, chatting about nothing in particular, before noticing that the light rain had let up. Not too soon after, an announcement came on over the speakers that were scattered about the place saying that sign-ups for the pumpkin carving contest needed to head on over.

Taking that as their cue to move on, the three of them made it over to the small stage with tables and pumpkins on it centered in the heart of the fair. So far, only two pairs had signed up and were talking to each other up on the stage. When Roy, Lian, and Jason walked up to the teenage girl who was signing people up, she smiled at them sadly, “Sorry guys, only two of you can enter.” 

Roy and Jason looked at each other, and before Jason could argue, Roy was pushing him forwards. “Win me the prize,” Roy told him with a grin, “No arguing,” 

Jason nodded, “Yessir,” he said before turning to the girl and giving her his and Lian’s name. 

Roy stepped back and watched the two climb on stage, quietly discussing what Roy assumed was about what they could carve into their pumpkin. He took a seat on one of the plastic lawn chairs that were lined up in front of the stage. He wanted to get a seat right in the front row, but there were some elderly people seated there and Roy didn’t want to bother them, so he sat on the edge of the third row instead.

Pulling out his phone, he snapped a quick picture of the two on stage, and when they noticed what he was doing and started waving at him with matching smiles, he took a few more. One of the old men sitting in front of him noticed what he was doing and turned around in his chair to talk to Roy.

"That your girl up there?" he asked in a semi-raspy voice.

Roy nodded, "Yessir, she sure is. Is one of yours up there?" 

The man shook his head with a smile, "No, we just like coming down here to watch the young'uns have fun. Y'know, the city has been doing these festivals since before my grandpa immigrated here. It's nice to see people still enjoy the kinds of things I used to do as a boy."

"Is it any different now than it was back then?" Roy asked curiously. "I've lived in Star off and on for nearly two decades now and I can't say I remember the festival being much different." 

"Oh, it used to be a lot more wild!" the man laughed, come on up here and I'll tell you all about it,"

Roy moved up the two rows to sit in the empty chair next to the old man, "I'm Roy," he said once seated while extending his hand.

"James," the elder man responded and grasped Roy's hand in his own. "A pleasure to meet you,"

Roy grinned, he could never resist smiling whenever he saw other people happy. James released Roy's hand and began animatedly telling Roy all about the history of the festival and how the traditions had changed over time. Roy listened intently, hanging off of every word.

He has always loved hearing other people tell stories, especially when he could tell the other person was passionate about it. Whether it was Brave Bow back at the reservation or Oliver next to the fireplace, Roy was eager to hear about other people's lives.

The announcer said there were only a few minutes left before they started and Jason walked to the edge of the stage with his jacket draped over his arm. 

"Roy," he whisper-yelled, "Sorry to interrupt, but can you hold my jacket for me? I don't want it to get dirty."

"Jaybird, you're going to catch a cold if you don't wear it," 

"The rain stopped! Pretty please?" Jason begged. "If I'm worried about getting pumpkin guys all over the leather, I won't be able to focus as well and I won't win you the prize."

Roy, failing miserably to hold a scowl and not grin, concurred, "Alright, hand it over, but you better win or else." 

Jason tossed the jacket to Roy before heading back to his and Lian's table while calling, "Only the best for you, Mockingbird!" 

"Is that your boyfriend?" James asked, startling Roy who was in the midst of putting on Jason’s jacket, "Sorry to assume, but I saw the way he was looking at you and neither of you has a ring."

Roy gave a small laugh that was a combination of anxious and giddy, "He practically is, I think. We don't really have any label for it other than partners for now though."

James sighed dreamily, " Ah , young love. I remember when I first met my wife Danni. She's off visiting her sister in Nigeria right now."

"Is it hard being that far apart?" 

"Goodness yes! I miss her something fierce and there's this dull ache in my bones, but I know in my heart she'll come back. Lovers are like that- like birds. Sometimes they fly away for a while, but if you loved them right they'll return soon enough."  James smiled forlornly, "There was a time we couldn't be together. Prejudice runs deep in the world, you know, but we overcame that together. Something like an ocean between us is nothing compared to all that we faced together."

"That's really sweet and...encouraging. Thank you for sharing with me, Mr. James."

James gave Roy a warm smile with twinkling eyes, "You can call me Jamie. You're a good listener, you know that, son?" 

"Maybe you're just a great storyteller, Jamie." 

Jamie laughed, "A good listener and a charmer! Your man is a lucky one indeed." 

"I dunno about that. If you asked me, I'm luckier."

Jamie opened his mouth to respond but was cut off by the announcer. Roy watched as Jamie gripped the chair arms in anticipation. He looked like a kid in a candy store, and it was contagious enough that Roy started mimicking his position. 

A countdown happened and once the announcer hit zero, the contestants were off. Well, Jason was at least. He twirled the knife in his hand and began carving off the top of the pumpkin while Lian stood by and whispered directions to him. The other teams, soon caught up, causing Jason to work faster.

For a second, Roy was worried that the other man might hurt himself using a blade that fast, but then remembered that Jason was trained by Batman, so he probably had nothing to worry about. Despite how recklessly he seemed to be moving the knife, Roy would bet that Jason was actually the one being the most safe on stage. 

There was an egg timer sitting on a stool in the front-center of the stage and it was counting down from three minutes. Roy didn’t know how long it would take him to carve a pumpkin. The last time he participated in the contest, he couldn’t finish the carving. That may have also been one of the reasons he made Jason do it. He really didn’t want to embarrass himself in front of the other man.

“He’s good with a knife,” Jamie commented, “And efficient. Military?”

Roy nodded, feeling a little bad about lying to his new friend, but knowing he should stick with the story they’d been telling everyone. “Qurac,” 

Jamie whistled, “He’s so young though. I remember back when people were drafted for war. Of course, I was just a young’un back then, but I always heard the stories about my daddy fighting tooth and nail to stay at home with us. But, that was a messy war- not one soul was passionate about it. I suppose nowadays the young people see something worth fighting for though- not that I can argue. I’m a full-blooded American through and through. I just wish no one had to lose their lives for freedom.”

“I think most people wish that,” Roy said, “It’s a nice sentiment to have. I know my Jaybird up there is really caring about protecting the innocent and creating a safe world for people. I don’t think he’d even bother with something if he wasn’t passionate about it.”

“He sounds like a good man,”

Roy smiled, “I’d say he’s as close to perfect as someone can get,” 

Roy must’ve said that a little too loudly because Jason’s eyes flickered up to catch his and Roy noticed the pink that was dusting his cheeks. Smile growing, Roy cupped his hands around his mouth and yelled, “C’mon, Jaybird! Bring home the prize for daddy!” 

Jason’s flush deepened and he discreetly gave Roy the finger, but his eyes narrowed in concentration on the pumpkin nonetheless. 

Lian was pushing all the pumpkin insides away from their workspace to the edge of the table, and with over half the time left on the clock, Jason got to carving. Lian pointed at different areas of the pumpkin and with the way her lips were moving, Roy could tell that she was speaking in Vietnamese. 

They had turned their pumpkin away from the other contestants and the audience to where the announcer was the only one that could see what they were doing. Due to the look of awe on the man’s face, Roy assumed the carving was coming along spectacularly. They kept glancing at Roy though, which worried the man slightly.

If he was being honest, those three minutes may have been the longest three minutes of Roy’s life. The excitement to see what everyone was making made Roy start bouncing his knee anxiously while leaning forward in his seat as the final seconds counted down. 

Before time was completely out, Jason stepped back and wiped his brow, Lian grinning at the pumpkin like it was the greatest thing on the planet. She looked at Roy and gave him two thumbs up before setting her hands on either side of the fruit, ready to turn it as soon as the announcer said so.

The time when off and Jason’s eyes caught Roy’s again.

“Alright,” the announcer drawled, “On the count of three, turn your pumpkins: one, two...three!” 

On the farthest end, a pair of college-aged girls spun their pumpkin to reveal they had done absolutely nothing other than gut the thing. There was pumpkin caught in their hair and covering their clothes, but they were laughing, so Roy assumed they weren’t too bummed about the turnout.

The second group, a man and a woman who looked closer to Dinah’s age turned their pumpkin around to reveal a traditional-looking Jack o’ Lantern. Roy appreciated the simplicity of it- but noticed that their gazes were drawn to Jason and Lian’s pumpkin. 

Roy felt his jaw drop at what he saw.

They had somehow carved Roy’s face into the pumpkin. He was so flabbergasted at the sight that all he could do was stare. He felt like he was looking in a weird yellow-orange tinted mirror.

“Well, I think it’s obvious who our winners are folks,” the announcer said and walked between Jason and Lian to hold up their arms. “Team three wins!” 

“That’s your people!” Jamie said excitedly while clapping, “Congratulations!” 

Roy smiled, he felt like he was doing that a lot today, “Thank you, Jamie. Hey, can I get your number? You’re a fun guy to hang out with.” 

After exchanging numbers with Jamie, which the older man was extremely joyous about, Roy jogged up onto the stage where Jason and Lian were talking to the announcer. "Oh, there he is. Hey, Roy," Jason greeted, "Carlos here was just asking who the inspiration of our pumpkin was."

"It looks just like him!" Carlos exclaimed, "You guys did a fantastic job, I'm telling you, absolutely fantastic! Look, go talk to Marissa, yeah? She's the girl over there," he pointed at the girl who took their names for the contest. "She's gonna get you guys your prize. It was nice meeting you folks." Carlos waved to them and walked off to talk to the other contestants.

When he was sure Carlos was out of earshot, Roy said, "That's it. I'm going to give both of you a big fat smooch!" He scooped up Lian and kisses her on the cheek while she squealed and laughed. 

"Cha! That tickles!" She giggled.

"Hm? I can't understand you, you're laughing you much." He blew a raspberry against her cheek.

Laughing harder, Lian gasped out, "Jayjay, help!"

Roy's gaze snapped to Jason and he grinned slowly. "Jason, are you sacrificing yourself in place of Lian?" 

Jason froze in place, "Uh...yes?"

Roy set Lian down and started circling Jason. Lian covered her mouth, trying not to laugh at what she knew would come next. Jason watched confused, turning to keep Roy in his sights. "Lian, what is he doing?" he asked nervously.

Lian only smiled at him. Then, Roy ran up behind Jason, bracing an arm at the small of his back and under his knees, and picking him up. Jason yelped and Roy took the other man's surprise as an opportunity to place a wet kiss on his cheek.

Jason grumbled under his breath, so Roy kissed his cheek again, then started nuzzling his cheek and rubbing his stubble on it. "You're a giant cat," Jason mumbled, and Roy kissed his temple in response. With an exaggerated sigh, Jason wrapped one arm around the back of Roy's neck, "Fine, carry me home then after we get your prize." 

"Consider it done!" Roy happily said, "Want me to carry you too, Lian?" 

Lian nodded and Roy knelt down so she could climb onto his back. Jason had to force himself not to think about how much Roy was carrying. Jason knew how heavy he was and the fact that the other man didn't seem affected by it at all, well...it made Jason feel a certain way.

Roy carried them over to Marissa, who looked at them in amusement. "The winners I take it?" she asked, then lead them behind the stage to a table with different deserts on it. "Pick any of them that you like," 

They looked at all the deserts laid out. It looked like a few had already been taken and what was left was an assortment of pies and a single cake. They all glanced at each other before Jason reached out and grabbed the cake and tucked it against his chest. 

They said goodbye to Marissa, who told them to enjoy their cake and walked towards the exit of the fair. The fair wouldn’t be closing until later that night, but Jason still needed to pack for his departure, so they figured they could go have lunch at home. Then, that would be that.

A sense of melancholia hovered over them on their way home, knowing that with each passing second, their time together was shrinking. When they got out the fair, Roy had to set Jason down so he could pull out his phone and call another Uber. Jason, once again, insisted that he pay and Roy let him with no arguments.

Their new Uber driver was less talkative than the other one, which was fine with Roy, he filled the silence by telling Lian and Jason about Jamie instead. When they arrived back at the apartment complex, Jason paid the driver, and they all walked to the elevator. Lian, who climbed onto Roy’s back again as soon as they were out of the car, was recalling the process of how they carved out the pumpkin.

Once inside, they stripped off their extra layers and made their way into the kitchen. Jason set the cake on the island while Roy gathered all the jackets and tossed them over the back of the couch. "What do you guys want for lunch?" he asked, turning and placing his hands on his hips.

Lian and Jason both looked at the cake and Roy shook his head with a laugh. He walked over to the silverware drawer and grabbed a knife while Lian climbed on top of the counter to get to the cabinet with the plates in it. "Cha, do we have candles?" 

"I don't think so,"

"I have matches," Jason offered, "We can put three on the cake and pretend each one counts for ten."

"Is that safe?" Roy asked.

Jason grinned, walking over to his jacket and patting down the pockets, "Life is no fun without a little danger, Roy." 

Roy wanted to argue, but, well, he did go out at night and ran around shooting people with arrows. He wasn't exactly the epitome of safety. So, instead, he took the plates from Lian and carried them along with the knife over to the island.

Lian hopped off the counter and skipped over to the cake. She pulled off the plastic lid and made grabby hands when Jason came back over with the matches.

"Nope. The box says to keep out of reach of children. I'll hand the pyros." Jason told her while striking the matches on the sides of his boots and placing them in the cake.

Roy didn't need long to think about his wish, but he was considerate and allowed Jason and Lian to finish singing happy birthday before he blew out the matches.

Roy wasn't the most superstitious, but he wished with his whole heart and soul that his future would hold more days like this. So, while he let his eyes close so he could lean towards the flames and blow, he let the sound of Lian and Jason's voices mixing cover him in peace. In one breath, the flames were out and smoke rose up to Roy's nose. He leaned back, eyes opening and felt his heart skip at the teal ones smiling back. 

Chapter Text

“Everyone here is so cool, Roy. Like, seriously!” Jason’s voice came through the computer screen, “They’re all really supportive...it’s almost unnerving.”

“Now, don’t go getting all paranoid, Jaybird,” Roy said, tinkering with a paralysis arrow that he’d drafted not too long ago. It was supposed to be used as a tranquilizer, but Roy was still working out the kinks. He supposed he could just use a tranq gun, but that would come at the cost of his aesthetic, and he would have to get a holster for it, and he wouldn’t be able to brag that he made a paralysis arrow. ”Of course they’re all supportive of you. You’re family.”

Jason sighed dramatically and threw himself back on his bed, making Roy chuckle. “You’ve always had a family though. You’re used to it, y’know? This is all so unhackneyed to me. All I’ve ever dreamed about was people I can trust like this.” 

Roy set down the arrow and straightened in his seat, “Dreams can come true. Hell, I’ve been living the dream for years now and my life just keeps getting better. Now it’s just your turn in the sun,” he said, pulling up a tab on his computer to find out what the hell unhackneyed meant. “Sure, yeah, I’ve always had people I can rely on, but I also know not to look a gift horse in the mouth.” 

“I’m not trying to sound ungrateful, Roy. I don’t know if it’s just natural pessimism or if it’s the city messing with me, but I have this sense of looming doom in my gut. Like shit could go haywire any second,” Jason rolled over so he could look at his monitor again and Roy closed out of his extra tab. “I really feel like being in Star has helped clear a lot in my head. I’m not trying to take Gotham for granted. I love her, it’s where I grew up, where I became me, but it’s so dark here. It feels like all the demons I’ve been running from are right around the corner.”

“Jay,” Roy started, folding his arms across his workbench, “You’ve got twice as many bats there as you did arrows here, I think you’re as safe as they come. And if anything did happen, just say the word and I’ll be over there in a heartbeat,”

Jason gave him a soft smile, “Thanks, Roy,” he said quietly.

Roy grinned, “Just because you got yourself a colony of bats doesn’t mean us arrowheads won’t have your back. Hey, how are your efforts to start patrolling again going?”

“They’re still not letting me. But at least they keep me company while everyone else is out clobbering dirtbags. Yesterday, Steph and I spent three hours making waffles. We used practically everything in the kitchen and Alfred was so mad. So, now we’re banned from eating his cooking until they’re all gone. It was fun though- oh! And the night before, Duke and I were reenacting Macbeth. Aunt Kate and Dickwad helped but they had to keep looking back at their scripts. Amateurs.”  

Roy shook his head with a grin, “I take it they’re all doing well then?”

“Yeah. Like I said, everyone is really cool, it’s just different for me.”

“Well, change can be good,” Roy said, then in a lower voice, “I don’t want to ruin your fun, but how long do you think you’ll be staying there?” 

Jason’s face fell, and he slowly sat up, “Until...after Christmas? I want to come home sooner, Roy, I really do, but…”

“You better stop frowning right now, Jason Peter Todd, or so help me I’ll fly across the country tonight and smack it off you,” Roy threatened, trying his hardest to put on a stern scowl.

Jason laughed, “I’d rather you kiss it off me if I have any say in it,” 

Roy felt his own features relax and he gave the younger man a warm smile, “That could be arranged,” Jason put on an exaggerated frown, causing Roy to start laughing. "Nice try. How about as a welcome home gift we finally have our fated kiss?"

Jason stopped with the fake frown and smiled instead, "I'm going to kiss you so hard you'll bruise,"

"Don't go getting me all worked up, Jay. Not without following through with it. I'm lonely and frustrated enough as it is, not having you here for a whole month, no need to add insult to injury."

“I dunno. The longer you wait the more eager you’ll-”

Jason’s remark was cut off by a very familiar voice yelling, “Little Wing! Are you ready to go?”

Jason looked at the camera apologetically, “Sorry, that’s my cue to go. Talk to you later?” 

“Always,” Roy said and watched with a melancholy smile as Jason disconnected their video chat. Sighing, Roy leaned back in his seat as the blank computer screen mocked him. He cast a sideways glance at the clock above his office door. It was just nearing around noon, which meant Roy could take his lunch break soon. 

He spun around in his desk chair, trying to remember what he needed to get done that week. It was just turning December, which meant he’d have to stress about Christmas shopping soon. He would’ve went and bought things for Black Friday, but, well, all that chaos scared him a little. Besides, it wasn’t like he needed to get things super cheap, he could borrow money from Ollie after all. 

Roy spun in his chair again and kicked his feet up on his desk, careful not to hit his computer. A month ago, he would have been going out to lunch with Jason and talking about birds and the changing colors of the leaves, now he was eating alone every day, except the few days he was able to go eat with Lian. He had surprised her with some food from Marcus’s last week, which she shared with her friends.

Not only was he meeting all of Lian’s friends and learning more about what she did day to day, but he was also making a good impression on Mrs. Ling, who’s opinion of Roy was shifting from exasperated to at least a little respect. There was one day where she asked why Jason hadn’t come to lunch with Roy and he had to hastily make up an excuse about Jason being out of town for work. Surprisingly, Mrs. Ling had apologized and offered Roy an open invitation to dinner with her and her wife whenever Jason returned.

Roy was ecstatic, to say the least. He had already sealed his and Jason’s first double date.

New friendships aside, Roy had also gotten permission from his landlord that he could do some personal renovation on his apartment and the empty one next door. The landlord, the husband of a woman Arsenal had saved a long time ago, had known Roy’s secret for a long while, but had never said anything. Until Roy asked about the renovations. 

He had a whole story of excuses ready to explain, but Dennis, his landlord, stopped him. “Do what you want hero, just promise to keep protecting this city,” he had said. Shocked, Roy had nodded and called up Oliver as soon as he got back upstairs. His dad laughed at his panic of course. That’s how Roy learned that apparently there was a large group of people that knew the identities of most of the arrows, and Oliver had tabs on each and every one of them, promising that they were all good people sworn to secrecy. 

For a few days after that, Roy spend hours wondering just who knew about his double life. He then realized that maybe it didn’t really matter. Sure, there were a lot of villains that probably wanted to do some pretty bad things to him, but there were a lot more normal people that felt like they were in debt to him. He didn’t expect anything in return, but he suspected if the day came where he did need something, they wouldn’t hesitate to help. Kindness breeds kindness, Roy knew that for a fact.

So, whenever he had the chance, he could get to work on that. Although, he’d need to find a babysitter for Lian since he’ll have to tear down the wall between the apartments and he didn’t want any of the debris affecting Lian. He might even give Connor a call and ask him to come help. He would’ve asked Jason, but, well, that wasn’t an option right now.

Roy felt himself pouting and quickly wiped the look off his face. There was no use in moping about things that couldn’t be helped. Besides, Connor was fun in his own right. Roy grabbed his phone off his desk and pulled up his brother’s number. It was then that Roy realized that he had no idea how Connor normally spent his days. He assumed the guy stayed around the Quiver, just in case, or maybe up in space with the Justice League, but Roy could only guess. He didn’t even know if Connor had a day job.

Roy pressed the call button, feeling a bit like an ass due to his lack of knowledge, and set the phone on speaker before placing it on his desk, busying himself with spinning in his chair again. The call only rang twice before Connor picked up. “Roy, is everything alright?” 

“Yep!” Roy said, “Why does everyone also answer with that when I call? Can’t I just call for personal reasons or am I only allowed to be in trouble?” 

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean-”

Roy laughed, cutting Connor off, “I’m messing with you. Are you busy right now?” 

“A little,”

“A little?” 

“Well, I’m...on a date?”

Roy’s brow rose and he stopped spinning, instead, he leaned in close to the phone, “Connie, why do you sound unsure? And why didn’t you tell me? I’m your big brother!” 

“You didn’t ask! Nor did you tell me about Peter, so I figured we didn’t talk about that sort of thing.” Connor defended, “And I don’t really want dad to find out about this yet. He’s kind of a prude sometimes.” 

It was then that Roy heard another voice, one that sounded familiar and one that was definitely lower than he expected. Sure, he and Connor never really talked about their sexualities, Roy just assumed Connor didn’t like dating since he never brought anyone around. Roy supposed that he assumed if Connor were to date, it’d be with a girl. Looking back on it though, Roy didn’t really know why he’d believe as such. “Who’s Peter?” the voice asked.

Connor shushed the voice, “I told you it was on speaker!” he whispered, but Roy could still hear him. “Peter is Roy’s boyfriend.”

“He is not ,” Roy interjected, “At least not yet. Officially. Who’s that with you, Connie?”

Connie, ” said the voice, “I like that. I’m stealing it.”

“Do not ,” Connor said sternly, the other voice only laughed in response. 

Roy rolled his eyes, a small bit of envy trying to crawl its way through him. “Well, if you don’t want to tell me who you’re soliciting with,” Roy started, and grinned when he heard Connor make a noise of protest at his choice of wording, “Then you can surprise me by bringing him down to my apartment and helping me knock out a wall.”

For a moment, Roy was met with silence, then, “Alright,” Connor said, “Text me a time and we’ll be there.” 

“Great!” Roy clapped his hands together, leaning back in his chair, “See you guys later. And remember, I have a lot of prototypes in my apartment, so, Mystery Man, if you hurt my dear baby brother I’ll be sure to test all of them on you.”

“Sounds hot,” said the voice, “Count me in.”

Roy barked out a laugh, “I like him already. Bye bye guys,”

“Bye, Roy,” Connor said, sounding exasperated, and hung up the phone. 

Roy set his phone down on the table by his computer, then stood. He stretched his arms above his head then looked around with a sigh. All he had to work on today was an old pickup truck, but he was waiting for parts to come in for that. He could keep working on his tranq arrow, but he was starting to feel a little bummed and didn’t feel motivated enough to kick start his genius.

Instead, he dragged a bag out from under his desk and set it on the table. He picked through his tools, selecting ones he’d need for renovations and placed them in the bag. Being the quick thinker he was, he got through that pretty fast. Back at square one, he flopped into his chair. 

Sometimes, Roy really hated being a people person. Sure, he needed alone time every now and then, but spending too much time alone, especially with nothing to do, drove him insane. He started drumming his fingers on the edge of his desk and hummed. 

After Christmas. He thought. After Christmas could mean late December at the earliest. That brought a little hope to his heart. If Jason was returning then, that would mean Roy was already over the worst of the waiting. He could hold out for four more weeks. Easy. Yep.

The rhythm he was tapping out stuttered and he slowly stopped. He hated to act overdramatic, but the last time he felt this alone was when he had to leave Lian for two weeks for a mission. It sucked.

Deciding the only thing that could make him feel even slightly better would be seeing his beautiful daughter’s face, he secured his bag on the back of Jason’s bike (Jason left it for Roy to use when he left) and locked up his shop before pulling a pair of goggles over his eyes and heading off towards Lian’s school. If he wasn’t going to be able to see her later due to the renovations, then he was going to see her now. Hopefully, she didn’t have anything important today.

He was always nervous when he went to check her out of school. For some reason, he felt like the staff in the front office knew that Roy didn’t have what they’d call a “valid excuse” to remove her from class. If you asked him, he’d say hanging out with his daughter was a perfectly good reason, especially with the fact that he can sometimes get way too busy for his tastes. 

He waited in the poorly cushioned chair they had near the front desk while Lian made her way to the office. Once she rounded the corner, her face lit up and she ran at Roy. He stood, leaning down halfway and holding out his arms to catch her in a hug. 

“What’s going on, cha?” She asked curiously while Roy maneuvered her onto his back.

He carried her out to the motorcycle waiting outside, “I’m going to be taking down one of the walls in the apartment later, and since I don’t want you around all that, we’re going to spend time together now to make up for later when you’ll have to go to Ollie’s.

Lian, only half paying attention because she was focusing on braiding Roy’s hair, asked, “I’m going to ông nội?”

“Yep. Come on, onto the bike,” he said, helping Lian down. He took her backpack and secured it with his own bag. “You get to choose what we do today, sweetheart.” 

“Can we go to the place?” She grasped the handlebars of the motorcycle and made engine revving noises under her breath. Roy watched in amusement before moving to sit behind her. He took the helmet off the back of the bike and placed it over her head. She turned back to look at him, pushing up the visor.

“We can go to the place,” he told her. From the open visor, he could see her grin before she faced forward again and pushed it back down. He set his goggles over his eyes and gently moved her arms out of the way so he could start the engine. They pulled out the school parking lot and rode to Marcus’s.

Lian stood behind Roy, helmet still on her head, while he chatted with Marcus and waited on their food. Their conversation wasn’t anything profound, although Roy wasn’t against deep conversations with Marcus, but rather they stayed on light topics mostly surrounding Roy’s plans for renovation. Roy found himself wondering, while Marcus handed him his bag of food, if Marcus was one of the people that knew about Roy’s identity.

With a quick goodbye to the darker man, Roy and Lian went back out to the bike. Roy let Lian hold onto the food while he drove them towards the edge of town. Star City was urbanized, no doubt about it. Sometimes people will look at the tall buildings and sneer at it. Roy could understand that sentiment. Although fascinated by the wonders of the modern world, when Roy first came to Star, he missed the fields and forests of the reservation he grew up on. 

Now, he had a certain appreciation for the city. Specifically, one spot of the side of Queen Consolidations that most people didn’t know about. Roy had found it when he was a teenager and had kept it fairly under wraps since. 

There was a window halfway up the building near the elevators where the ledge outside was just big enough to walk along. Being the idiotic teenager he was, Roy decided to test his luck after a fight with Oliver. Standing on the ledge was terrifying, but at the same time peaceful. One wrong step could have sent Roy to his premature doom, yet, being in the small space away from everything felt so serene that he couldn’t stop climbing out the window. 

He started adding to the ledge in secret. Roy knew the blueprints of the building like the back of his hand, so he was aware of the small crevice in the architecture that was perfect for a balcony. He bribed the window washers to let him borrow their scaffold and not tell Ollie anything. His bribery was usually in the form of doing part of their work for them, which Roy didn’t mind. He learned a lot about cleaning windows in those months.

So, he extended the ledge to go to this crevice in the wall and built a platform there. It took a lot of work, but eventually, he had this secret plateau with a bench and an overhang. During the spring he would keep plants out there and during the winter he would get an extension cord and bring a heater outside with him.

Only four people knew about his hideout, himself included. Lian was the first person to find out about it. When she was only three, and they were living in the Queen Consolidations building, she had a nightmare that had her crying like Roy had never seen before. Roy tried everything from holding her and singing to trying to get her to talk about it, but nothing he thought of worked. On a whim, he carried her to the elevators and stopped on the floor with the ledge. 

Throughout the years, Roy had lost the sense of fear that came with climbing out the window. He’d spent so much time securing it with support beams and wires and railing that he was fully confident that it would stand the test of time. Having Lian with him though, he felt nervous about going out there for the first time in years. He cautiously climbed through the window, holding onto his daughter tightly and as the wind started to whip around them, Lian quieted down. 

He carried her along the ledge that now served as a proper walkway and over to the bench. He sat down with her and wrapped them both in a blanket he had left out there. For nearly two hours they had sat in silence before Lian finally drifted off to sleep.

The next person to find out about it was Connor. It was after Oliver had died. Roy and Connor were both struck with grief after the loss of their father, not sure what to do aside from continuing the vigilante business. One night though, they were out patrolling together when Connor collapsed. In a panic, Roy rushed over to him. The shock of seeing Connor cry like that made something pull taught inside of Roy. 

There weren't many people roaming around the building at that time, so Roy helped Connor up and together they walked right through the front doors to the elevators. The confusion finally set in and Connor asked what they were doing, his breath coming out jagged and raspy. Roy told him that it was okay and to trust him, so Connor did. He led him through the window and to the bench.

Once they were both seated, the pain that Roy was trying to hold back finally came forward. They spent the whole night alternating between crying and recalling fond memories of their father. Roy wondered if Connor still used the ledge sometimes. 

The last person to find out about it was Mia. Roy never showed her the ledge, in fact, Mia had found it all on her own. He supposed a sense for hiding spaces came with being Speedy. She had asked him about it, telling him that she found his initials engraved on the bench. He confirmed that it was his, but she was welcome to it whenever she needed it, and if she needed a shoulder to cry on as well, to just give him a call.

She still hadn’t taken him up on that offer, but he knows when the time comes, she will.

With all the sadness that surrounds the bench now, it’s sometimes hard to sit up there and feel at peace. So, Roy started stashing some cards and board games up there. It was still a beautiful spot to watch the city from, it just now held a melancholy air about it.

But if Lian wanted to eat lunch up there, then Roy would let her. The bench belonged to all of them. That’s why he got the other three to also engrave their initials into it.

Back in present time, Lian and Roy climbed off Jason’s motorcycle and strolled into Queen Consolidations with their food in hand. Lian seemed a little lost in thought, but Roy didn’t think too much of it. They didn’t talk during the elevator ride, nor once they finally got to the bench. They ate their lunch in silence too.

Worry was finally settling in Roy’s gut, when Lian finally looked up at him and spoke, “Cha, do you think you’ll ever get married?”

Roy braced himself, “Maybe someday. If I find the right person,”

“What makes the right person?” Lian asked, twisting an unused napkin.

Folding his arms behind his head and looking up at the sky, Roy said, “Well, I think I would want someone who could balance me.”

“Like an equilibrium?”

Roy grinned and looked at Lian, “Whoa! Look at you using advanced words! Where’d you hear that one at?” 

Beaming at him, Lian smugly said, “I read it in a book.” She turned back to the city below them, “My test to join the gifted program is next week.”

“I know,” Roy said, wrapping an arm around her, “You’ll do amazing. You know, you’re going to be smarter than me someday. You probably already are.”

Even with Jason gone, Roy still had a lot in Star City. He couldn’t stop his heart from longing, but he could make it beat with joy again by simply eating lunch with his daughter, and that was more than he could ever ask for.

Chapter Text

“Little Wing! Are you ready to go?” Dick called from the hallway, gently knocking on Jason’s door. After earlier last month when he barged in without asking and in reflex, Jason pulled a knife on him, he had learned that knocking is very important.

Feeling an odd sense of grief, Jason said to Roy over the monitor, “Sorry, that’s my cue to go. Talk to you later?”

Always, ” came Roy’s reply and Jason had to force himself to shut his laptop before he could get sucked into all the unfiltered love and longing in Roy’s eyes.

With a heavy sigh, Jason set his laptop on his bedside desk and called, “In a minute!”

Taking Jason’s response as meaning that it was safe to come in, Dick slowly cracked the door open, “Who was that?” 

“Who was who?” Jason asked, too busy pulling on a dark overshirt and jacket to pay attention to what his older brother was saying.

“On the computer! You were talking to someone,” he exclaimed, plopping down on Jason’s oversized bed. It was big enough to fit, say, two fully grown men, not that Jason had thought about that at all.

Deciding to play dumb, Jason turned to Dick and said, “I don’t know what you’re talking about,”

“Oh come on, baby bro,” Dick teased, “You have that look on your face.”

“What look?”

“The kind of look a person gets when they talk to someone that makes them happy!”

Rolling his eyes, Jason patted his pockets before walking towards the door, “Not everyone’s lives are as cliché and Hollywood as yours,”

“What does that have to do with anything?” Dick asked, following Jason out his bedroom and down the stairs. “And my life is full of plot twists and original ideas!” 

“Whatever you say, Golden Boy,”

“You’re just jealous, you emo grunge punk!”

“Those are three different kinds of music, dumbass!” 

“Of course you’d know that!”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

Dick only grinned in response, then mimicked throwing his hair over his shoulder and started sauntering down the stairs. “Dick, you dick! What does that mean?!” When he still got no response, Jason jumped at Dick and tackled him.

Dick let out a high pitched squeal, that Jason was definitely going to make fun of him for, as they rolled down the stairs, trying to shove the other one down faster and pulling at each other’s hair. Jason wasn’t ashamed to admit that he bit Dick’s arm. Sometimes playing dirty is the way to win. 

“You bitch! Don’t pull out my white streak!” Jason yelled, slapping at Dick’s hands and arms once they reached the bottom of the staircase.

“I thought you hated it anyways! I’m doing you a favor!”

“I like it now!”

“Yeah? Does it complete your angsty boy image!”

“Why you-” 

Jason’s very colorful curse that rested on the tip of his tongue was cut off when a dark shadow was cast over them and a gravelly voice, stern and authoritative, simply said, “Boys,”

At once, both Jason and Dick turned their heads upwards to come face to face with their father. In sync, they let go of each other and held their hands out in defense. “We weren’t doing anything!” They yelled at once, then turned to each other and exclaimed, “Yes you were!”

Sighing, Bruce ran a hand down his face, “I told you two if you must act out, at least do it in the cave where people can’t see you.”

“I thought you told us to stop acting like kids because it’s bad for your heart and you’ll be damned if you let Superman outlive you,” Jason recalled, getting a snicker from Dick and an unimpressed look from Bruce.

“I’ve given up the hope that you can ever act like an adult,” Bruce said monotonously.

Ooooh burn!” Dick laughed.

“That goes for you too, Dick,” Bruce added, turning away and walking to the front door.

Jason waited for Bruce to be mostly out of hearing range before he quietly commented, “Not the Golden Boy anymore, are you Dickepoo?”

“It’s all your fault,” Dick deadpanned, “You bring out the worst in me.” 

“And I wouldn’t want it any other way,” Jason said, standing and offering a hand to Dick who took it and pulled himself up, “Short stack,” Jason added for good measure before taking off for the front door whilst cackling, an indignified Dick chasing after him.

Jason wouldn’t lie, there was a lot about Gotham that he didn’t like. He couldn’t walk near Crime Alley without tensing up and getting nauseous. He avoided looking towards the boardwalk where the amusement park was usually up and running at all costs. He couldn’t come anywhere near Arkham Asylum unless he wanted to be incapacitated by a panic attack. 

On the other side, the litter filled streets were a little cleaner than Jason remembered and the street cart hot dogs were as messy as ever. Jason was learning that it was the little things that counted, and everyone around him was doing little things to ensure Jason remained happy. 

A small, fearful part of him kept saying that they were only being kind in hopes to stop him from lashing out. It kept saying he was a pity project Bruce took in and that everyone got a morale boost for pitching in for. Yet, another part of him couldn’t be bothered to believe that. Did it really matter what everyone’s motive was when Jason himself was happy? He felt he deserved the blissful ignorance for once.

Speaking of little things, despite their bickering and fighting, something Jason learned siblings do a lot, Dick was currently driving Jason to a music store to buy a guitar. Jason technically didn’t have a license himself- a side effect of dying- and Dick said he didn’t mind driving Jason around for the duration of his stay in Gotham. 

At first, Jason abused his privilege greatly, asking for rides to Big Belly Burger at two in the morning and wanting to go on milk runs when Dick needed to go to Blüdhaven for something or another, but Dick never seemed to mind Jason’s persistent wishes. He later learned that was because Dick was just happy to spend time with him- something Jason never considered.

“So what kind are you wanting?” Dick suddenly asked him while on their way to the music store.

Assuming he was asking about the guitar, Jason replied, “An acoustic,”

“Classic,” Dick whistled, “You know how to play?”

“Yeah. Lost my last one though. It got blown up.”

“That’s shitty. Sorry,” Dick said and Jason could see how he tensed at the thought of Jason’s stuff exploding. Probably because Jason himself had exploded and Dick didn’t like thinking about it. That wasn’t to say that Jason did, but, well, he had to face reality sometime and the first step to getting over something was to be open about it.

“It was after I came back,” Jason commented, hoping that would give Dick some sort of comfort. The look on his face suggested that it didn’t. “Sorry,” Jason added.

“It’s okay. You don’t need to apologize. I’m just, you know, not completely comfortable with all of that yet.”

“I understand,”

“Sorry,”

“If I can’t apologize then neither can you,” 

Dick gave him a small grin, “Deal,”

Figuring their conversation was over, Jason reached for the radio, turning it onto the last station played. His ears were immediately assaulted with loud pop music. He scowled but left it on.

Looking out the window, Jason thought about how many times he had been up and down these streets. He expected he would feel some sort of nostalgia being back, but instead all he felt was anxious. Like he had told Roy, it felt like there was always something around the corner and Jason was terrified to run into it.

However, there were a few good memories. There was when he first became Robin. With a faint smile on his face, he recalled how enthusiastic he was the first time he put on the mask. Being able to serve justice and have a stable home was something Jason could never thank Bruce enough for. 

Jason supposed the only real place where he was ever happy was in Wayne Manor itself. Sure, he had fun patrolling, but the manor was where it all started. It’s where he had his first Christman, it was where he learned to cook, it was where he could flaunt his love for literature and be appraised for it, but above all, it was his first true home. 

He would never forget the manor and what it was to him, he honestly wished he could stay there forever, yet anything beyond those walls was so glum to him. Gotham still held a charm to Jason, one that in a way allured him to her dark mystery, intriguing the part of him that flourished when scared, but he knew that if he ever wanted to live peacefully and put the past behind him, he’d need to move on.

Luckily he already had a place waiting for him.

“What’re you smiling about?” Dick asked as he pulled into the parking lot of the music store and parked the car, “Is it your boyfriend?”

“He’s not my boyfriend,” Jason responded without thinking. Then, realizing what he said with wide eyes, he whipped his head to Dick, who was giving him a wide and mischievous smile. Jason ripped his seatbelt off and bolted out the car. Hunching his shoulders up to his ears, he marched into the store while Dick called after him with an obvious laugh in his voice.

Jason looked around the store for a second before spotting the guitar section and making a dash over to it. He had just turned the corner when he heard the door open again. He knew Dick would be distracted talking to whoever was upfront for at least a few minutes, so Jason took the opportunity to hurry and choose his guitar. 

He walked closer to the acoustics that could also be plugged into an amp. He didn’t even make it a foot before his eyes landed on a deep red shade. Jason didn’t know too much about the economics of guitars or what brands were the best, so the words Huss and Dalton above the guitar didn’t mean too much to him, but the color called to him, so he gingerly picked up the guitar and placed the strap over his shoulder.

He lightly ran his fingers over the strings before tuning the guitar. Satisfied with it, he closed his eyes before relaxing his shoulders and playing a few cords he could remember.

Jason was using the excuse that he needed something to busy himself with while he stayed in Gotham as a reason for wanting a new guitar, but he knew that the real reason was that he wanted to impress Roy and Lian.

Roy loved music, Jason already knew that from years ago when he’d overheard the redhead talking about his band, and Lian seemed to be interested in it as well if her singing in the bath half the time was anything to go by. Jason figured if he came back and could play them a few songs, maybe that could make up for his lack of Christmas presents. And if he happened to make Roy swoon in the process, well, Jason wasn’t going to complain.

Jason opened his eyes to find Dick and the cashier watching him. “Is that the one you want?” Dick asked and Jason nodded.

Jason went about picking out a pic while Dick paid for the guitar and got a case for it. Once everything was paid for, they got back in the car and headed back to the manor. They sat in relative silence, the radio off again, while Jason held onto his cased guitar and flicked the pic between his fingers.

“You know you can tell me about the guy you like, right?” Dick suddenly said.

Jason remained silent for a moment, then asked, “How did you know it was a guy?”

Dick gave him a reassuring grin, “Well, they say you never forget your first crush, but I guess that’s different for everyone. Do you remember back when you first started teaming up with the Teen Titans?”

Jason turned to Dick, “Yeah, of course. I was your replacement a few times when you had other things to do,”

“You don’t have to sound like you’re scolding me!” Dick reclaimed, making Jason snicker. “Anyways, after one mission, when everyone met back up at the tower, you kept looking at Speedy a certain way. The same way I first looked at Kori when we met.”

Jason felt the flush start to overtake his cheeks. He very much remembered that mission. It was the same mission where he first started caring about Roy, the same one where he got the nickname “Jaybird.” Jason was well aware of the crush he used to harbor on Roy, and Jason was over it when he came to check up on Roy that first week in Star City. The only reason he stayed around was that despite the time he spent forgetting about what he felt towards the other man, he couldn’t stop the fond feelings that still lingered. He cared about Roy.

Then he decided to stay and his old crush came back and blossomed into something more, something stronger.

“Jason?” Dick asked.

“Yeah?” Jason said softly.

“Where’ve you been staying all this time? You didn’t really tell us where you ran off to and the Red Hood sightings have gone down significantly. No more...situations. Is it because of the guy you’ve been talking to?”

“Yeah,” Jason sighed, “It’s because of him and his daughter. I want to be somebody that can help provide for them. An outlaw can’t do that, not safely.” 

Smiling, Dick responded, “I’m glad to see you growing up, Jace. And knowing there’s someone out there making you want to get better, it’s really comforting. You know, I’m sure Bruce would love to know that you have something to go back to once you leave. It would put his old heart at ease.”

Jason sunk down in his seat, “I was thinking I should tell him. Tell Bruce that I can’t stay here forever. I’m getting better, Dick, I really am, and I’m not sure how good Gotham is for me.”

“What do you mean?” Dick asked curiously.

“I don’t feel at ease. I love you guys at the manor and if any of you need anything all you have to do is ask, but...Gotham isn’t mine anymore. Does that make sense?” Jason tried to explain.

Dick nodded solemnly, “I think I know what you mean. I’ve been back home recently since Bruce told me you were coming back, but you know I spend a lot of time in ‘Haven. That’s my place now, not Gotham. It’s only a matter of time until we all move on. Except maybe Damian. I think he really is the happiest he’s ever been living here. Tell Bruce though. You know how much he worries about you. And definitely let Alfred know. They’ll understand.”

“How can you be so sure?” Jason asked quietly, nearly afraid to bring up his concerns.

“Because we’re your family, Jason. We love you and want you to succeed and be happy in life.” 

Jason turned his head to the window and pressed his sleeve again his eyes, “Thanks, Dick.”

“What are big brothers for?”